HIS 350L • Faith in the Fifties-W
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
This new seminar will examine the religious dimensions of American culture and society between the end World War II and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. We will look at significant social, political and economic developments such as the origins of the Cold War, the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, the emergence of the "baby boomers" as a demographic cohort, and the rise of a mass consumer culture, and then investigate the ways in which they affected, and were in turn affected by, religion. And we will investigate more specifically religious developments, such as the beginning of what sociologists call "the suburban captivity of the church," the revival associated primarily with Billy Graham, and the "positive thinking" movement associated with, among others, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale. We will also investigate the ways in which mass entertainment--novels, popular music, movies, television--figured in all of those developments. Several students have suggested of late that the fifties were a turning point in the development of religion in America. We will endeavor to determine how that might have been.
Fully one half of the final course grade will be determined by class attendance and by consistent and effective contributions to class discussion. Because the seminar fulfills the requirement for a Substantial Writing Component Course, the other half of the final grade will be determined by a sixteen-page term paper. Students will prepare a brief prospectus of the paper, which will count 10% of the paper grade; an extended prospectus, which will count 20% of that grade; a rough draft, which will count 30% of that grade; and a final draft, which will count 40% of the paper grade.
Readings will be selected from among the following and other works: Robert S. Ellwood, The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace Amanda Porterfield, The Transformation of American Religion Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter There will also be a course packet for the seminar. Movies will be selected from among the following and other films: Quo Vadis The Robe Elmer Gantry A Man Called Peter