CfP Seminar: Secularization and Selfhood (Event: Washington), Deadline: 05.01.2009

The Folger Institute is now accepting applications for a late-spring seminar that will be directed by Phyllis Mack from mid-May to mid- June. The seminar is designed to appeal to scholars in different fields: religion, gender studies, cultural studies, the Enlightenment, popular and high culture, English history and literary studies. Please encourage faculty colleagues and advanced graduate students with relevant projects to apply by 5 January 2009. Forward any questions to

Seminar description: Secularization and Selfhood. A Late-Spring Seminar directed by Phyllis Mack

It is a historical commonplace that a process of secularization accompanies the transition from pre-modern to modern societies: a growing indifference to religion among elite and educated classes, a separation of piety and ritual from the worlds of politics and the marketplace, and a gendering of religious practice. This seminar analyzes that process in terms of ideas about selfhood in the long eighteenth century. Participants will explore how individuals in England and America understood the seismic shift from the religious culture of the early modern period to the so-called „disenchantment of the world“ that developed in the wake of the Enlightenment. How did individuals reconcile theological doctrines about the attainment of spiritual knowledge with scientific theories about the relation between mind and body? Or Protestant ideas about human depravity with Enlightenment ideas about human potential? How did Enlightenment ideas about agency and autonomous selfhood shape the popular religious imagination, and how did religious ideas of self-transcendence create identities that, by the end of the century, are recognizably modern?
Selected primary texts from the long eighteenth century will address these and other questions, focusing on the themes of gender, epistemology, the meaning of health and illness, ideas about agency and passivity, emotional self-fashioning, and the individual’s relationship to the public sphere.

Director: Phyllis Mack is Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Rutgers University. In addition to her book, Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England (1992), she has published widely in the field of gender and religious studies. Her newest book, Heart Religion in the British Enlightenment: Gender and Emotion in Early Methodism, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press (2008)

Schedule: Thursdays and Fridays, 1 – 4:30 p.m., 14 May through 12 June 2009.

Applications Due: 5 January 2009 for admission (and grant-in-aid requests from Folger Institute affiliates).

Visit to access the online application form and guidelines.

Owen Williams
Assistant Director
The Folger Institute
Folger Shakespeare Library
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 675-0352


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