Albanese, Catherine L. 1940–

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Albanese, Catherine L. 1940–

(Catherine Louise Albanese)


Born August 21, 1940, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Louis and Theresa Albanese. Education: Chestnut Hill College, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1962; Duquesne University, M.A. (history), 1968; University of Chicago, M.A. (history of Christianity), 1970, Ph.D., 1972.


Office—Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93117. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and educator. St. Xavier College, Chicago, IL, instructor in history of Christianity, 1969-70; University of Chicago Extension, Chicago, IL, instructor in medieval culture, 1970; Wright State University, Dayton, OH, assistant professor, 1972-76, associate professor, 1977-81, professor of religion, 1981-87; University of California, Santa Barbara, professor of religious studies, 1987—, chair, Department of Religious Studies, 2005—. Visiting associate professor, Pennsylvania State University, 1976-77. Lecturer; has presented papers at scholarly conferences and participated in panel discussions at professional seminars. Editorial referee for several publishing companies.


American Academy of Religion, American Society of Church History, American Historical Association, American Studies Association, Organization of American Historians, Phi Alpha Theta.


Wright State University grants, 1973-74, 1978-79, 1980-81; National Endowment for the Humanities, grants, 1975, 1977, fellowship for independent study and research, 1981-82; Fred Harris Daniels fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, 1977; American Philosophical Society grant, 1979; Alumna of the Year, Divinity School, University of Chicago, 1991; election to membership, American Society for the Study of Religion, 1997; John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2003-04; induction into Libris Society, Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA, 2006.


Charon and the River: The Changing Religious Symbols of Six American Transcendentalists (Ph.D. thesis), University of Chicago (Chicago, IL), 1972.

Sons of the Fathers: The Civil Religion of the American Revolution, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1976.

Corresponding Motion: Transcendental Religion and the New America, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1977.

America: Religions and Religion, Wadsworth (Belmont, CA), 1981, 4th edition, 2007.

(Editor) The Spirituality of the American Transcendentalists, Mercer University Press (Macon, GA), 1988.

Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age, University of Chicago (Chicago, IL), 1990.

(Editor, translator, and author of introduction and notes) Frank S. Spiziri, A Cobbler's Universe: Religion, Poetry, and Performance in the Life of a South Italian Immigrant, Continuum (New York, NY), 1997.

(Editor, with Robert A. Orsi) Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1999.

(Editor) American Spiritualities: A Reader, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2000.

Reconsidering Nature Religion, Trinity Press International (Harrisburg, PA), 2002.

A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2007.

Coeditor of "Religion in North America" series for Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN).Contributor of numerous articles and reviews to academic journals. Member of editorial board, Environmental Review, 1976-78, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 1979—, Journal of Religion, Religious Studies Review, and Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses; editorial referee for several journals, including American Quarterly, Historian, Journal of American History, and Ohio Journal of Religious Studies.

Contributor of articles to collections, including R. Pierce Beaver, editor, Papers of the American Society of Missiology, William Carey Library (Pasadena, CA), 1976; (with David L. Barr) Nicholas Piediscalzi and William Collie, editors, Teaching about Religion in Public Schools, Argus Communications (Allen, TX), 1977; R. Pierce Beaver, editor, American Missions in Bicentennial Perspective, William Carey Library (Pasadena, CA), 1977; Joel Myerson, editor, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume III: Antebellum Writers in New York and the South, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1979; and Robert S. Ellwood, Jr., Freedom of Religion in America: Historical Roots, Philosophical Concepts, and Contemporary Problems, Transaction Books (Piscataway, NJ), 1982. Also contributor of scholarly articles and chapters to numerous other book-length publications.


Catherine L. Albanese is a professor of religion whose areas of specialization include nineteenth- and twentieth-century religious history in the United States, religion and American culture, metaphysical religion in the United States, and religion in its healing aspects, She has written widely on these and other aspects of religions, contributing to scores of scholarly books and journals and penning numerous books of her own. Writing on her faculty page on the University of California at Santa Barbara Web site, Albanese outlines the thrust of her work: "The field of American religious history is currently exploring new models for narrating the story of religion in the United States. Older consensus models are no longer in favor. I argue for a contact model that foregrounds the meetings and encounters between religious people. Such a model emphasizes the religious combinations made by individuals as well as between and among traditions in and through their American experience. My own work tries to develop this model in a variety of venues."

Albanese's textbook America: Religions and Religion, has been in print since 1981. In its fourth edition, the book "tells the multifaceted story of religion in the United States," according to a reviewer for Reference & Research Book News. Her work starts with religious traditions that were part and parcel of the early colonies, including Native American religions, African American religions, Catholicism, Judaism, and Protestantism. The book also surveys religions that originated in the United States, including Mormonism, Christian Science, and others. Albanese also examines the impact Eastern religions have had on the United States and looks at fundamentalism and New Age spirituality.

In her 1990 work, Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age, Albanese provides a historical survey of spiritual movements and religions that put a belief in nature over the usual precepts of an organized religion. As the title suggests, this survey stretches from Native American belief systems, in which humans interact continually with the spirit world, through the exaltation of nature in the writings of Henry David Thoreau all the way to the New Age spiritualism of the late twentieth century. Along the way, she pays attention to movements such as homeopathy, the health-reforming work of Sylvester Graham, developer of the Graham cracker, and chiropractic, among numerous others. Writing in Publishers Weekly, Genevieve Stuttaford felt that while Albanese "lingers over too many distractions," she also provides "interesting aspects in this diffuse essay." Whole Earth contributor Martin E. Marty, however, had a much higher assessment of Nature Religion in America, commenting that Albanese "deserves a patent for disclosure of this protean, enduring, viscous form of spirituality and religion." Marty further commented, "Rarely do the camps of covenanters and countercovenanters receive such tantalizing invitations to enter each other's company, to engage each other, and to learn together."

Working as editor, Albanese collected twenty-seven essays from a wide assortment of writers for the year 2000 book, American Spiritualities: A Reader. Church History contributor Amanda Porterfield found this an "imaginative and ambitious reader," The writings provide a broad swath of religious leanings, from Orthodox Judaism to Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, and from Buddhism to Pentecostalism. Albanese organizes these writings into four categories, corresponding to ways of knowing: through the body, the heart, the will, and the mind. Writing in Sociology of Religion, Georgie Ann Weatherby also found American Spiritualities "an ambitious volume."

Albanese turns her hand to a discussion of metaphysical religion in her 2007 work, A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion. Her survey here ranges from Transcendentalism to New Age thought in this "groundbreaking book," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer termed it. Instead of the usual examinations of mainstream religions or of evangelical movements, Albanese focuses on movements seeking enlightenment through spiritual search, many of them influenced by European beliefs, such as Rosicrucian Enlightenment and mysticism. Among the beliefs she profiles are Christian Science, Universalism, Freemasonry, Mormonism, Theosophy, and Buddhism. The Publishers Weekly contributor went on to call A Republic of Mind and Spirit "a first-rate and much-needed religious history of American metaphysical tradition." Writing in Church History, Robert C. Fuller offered similar praise, dubbing Albanese's book a "stunning historical narrative" and further noting the author "assumes the mantle of our era's most gifted interpreter of the American religious experience." For Fuller, Albanese is "a master of historical synthesis." Likewise, Library Journal reviewer Dina Komuves labeled A Republic of Mind and Spirit "a meticulous documentation of the many-faceted kaleidoscope of metaphysical religious movements that our American freedoms have engendered," And Richard John Neuhaus, writing in First Things, called the work "a fascinating tour of the many sideshows of the carnival that is religion in America."



Church History, March, 2002, Amanda Porterfield, review of American Spiritualities: A Reader, p. 218; June, 2007, Robert C. Fuller, review of A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion, p. 461.

First Things, March, 2007, "Metaphysical America," p. 26.

Library Journal, January 1, 2007, Dina Komuves, review of A Republic of Mind and Spirit, p. 113.

Publishers Weekly, March 9, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age, p. 58; April 9, 2001, review of American Spiritualities, p. 71; October 30, 2006, review of A Republic of Mind and Spirit, p. 56.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2006, review of America: Religions and Religion.

Sociology of Religion, December 22, 2002, Georgie Ann Weatherby, review of American Spiritualities, p. 539.

Whole Earth, December 22, 1997, Martin E. Marty, review of Nature Religion in America, p. 8.


Humanities and Social Sciences Online, (August 15, 2008), R. Scott Hanson, review of Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape.

University of California Santa Barbara, Department of Religious Studies Web site, (August 15, 2008), "Faculty—Catherine L. Albanese, Ph.D."

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Albanese, Catherine L. 1940–

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