History | Seminar in U.S. History
J300 | 3119 | Andrews


A portion of the above section reserved for majors
Above section open to undergraduates only
Above section COAS intensive writing section and also requires 	
	registration in COAS W333

TOPIC:  GRAHAM CRACKERS, FREE LOVE, AND CONVERSATIONS WITH THE DEAD:
AMERICAN RADICAL RELIGION AND REFORM, 1830-1860
The New Age, animal rights, Scientology, channeling,
veganism, "Crossing Over" and Heaven’s Gate – modern day American
culture seems preoccupied by radical social movements and
alternative religions. However, this is not the first time that
radical beliefs have captured the public imagination. The decades
leading up to the Civil War were also times of nagging fears and
utopian dreams about the future of American society. These
tendencies came together in an explosion of social reform and
religious experimentation in the antebellum period. Social reforms
like abolition and free love, efforts to restructure society through
perfectionist communes and new religious movements flourished.
People in the 1850s became obsessed with spiritualism and the
occult. It was also a time in which Americans were fascinated by
vegetarianism, health reform, and complicated ideas about the body
and the dangers of sex. Using secondary sources as well as primary
sources like newspapers, novels, and pamphlets, this seminar will
attempt to understand why these movements erupted during this
period, what drove their advocates, and how they were received in
popular culture. The class will also investigate what this period of
social experimentation tells us about American culture in the
nineteenth century. These understandings will also be used to place
the radical movements of the present day in historical perspective.
This class is reading and writing intensive and grades will be based
on class participation, weekly writing assignments, and a longer
final paper.