Attending to the transatlantic context

Transatlantic!  We like to see transatlantic.

We at the Jonathan Edwards Center Germany were happy to see the Wesley Studies and Evangelical Studies groups at AAR have put out a call for papers for the 2012 Chicago meeting comparing Edwards and John Wesley. The cfp says it will be a joint session, entitled, “Anthropology, Affections, and Awakenings in Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) and John Wesley (1703-91).”

They emphasize, too, that they’re not asking for papers that look at Wesley or Edwards. They’re not proposing a panel that would toggle back and forth between the Methodist and the Puritan, between England and New England. Instead, the cfp says, “Papers proposed for this joint session should be comparative in character and should give significant attention to both figures.”

Bravo, we say.

This is an encouraging direction in scholarship, and one the center here in Heidelberg hopes to support and encourage.

All too often, we find, transatlantic contacts are ignored, or, if mentioned, conceptualized only in terms of “early influences” on the English-speaking main protagonists. Rather than understanding the relationship as one between contemporaries, as a give and take, to be thought of in terms of a network, there’s a simple, linear narrative of Americanization, according to which European church traditions eventually metamorphosed into something new and distinctively American in the New World.

Though good work has already been done on interactions and exchanges between religious groups in 18th century Europe and America — Susan O’Brien researched her notable piece, “A Transatlantic Community of Saints: The Great Awakening and the First Evangelical Networks, 1735-1755,” in the 1970s — there’s still much to be done.

Some of which, it looks like, will be happening in Chicago this Nov., thanks to the good work of the Wesley and Evangelical studies groups.


— Daniel Silliman

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