Fessenden, Tracy 1961-
Fessenden, Tracy 1961-
Home—Phoenix, AZ. Office—Department of Religious Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-3104. E-mail—[email protected]
Millsaps College, Jackson, MS, assistant professor, 1992-94; Arizona State University, Tempe, assistant professor, 1994-2000, associate professor of gender studies and religion, 2000—. Guest lecturer at conferences, seminars, and universities.
American Academy of Religion, American Studies Association, Modern Language Association.
Recipient of numerous grants, including from the American Historical Association, 1994; Fulbright Foundation, 1994-95; American Academy of Religion, 1994, 1998, and 2005; National Endowment for the Humanities, 1994 and 1998; Lilly Endowment and Pew Charitable Trusts, 1996-98; and the Ford Foundation, 2004-07 and 2006-10. Recipient of fellowships from Yale University, 1998-99; Tulane University, 1999-2000; and the National Endowment for the Humanities, 2000-01.
(Editor, with Nicholas F. Radel and Magdalena J. Zaborowska) The Puritan Origins of American Sex: Religion, Sexuality, and National Identity in American Literature (nonfiction), Routledge (New York, NY), 2001.
Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature (nonfiction), Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2007.
Contributor to books, including Catholics in the Movies, edited by Colleen McDannell, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2007; Perspectives on Embodiment: The Intersections of Nature and Culture, edited by Gail Weiss and Honi Haber, Routledge (New York, NY), 1999; Postmodernism and the Holocaust, edited by Alan Milchman and Alan Rosenberg, Rodopi (Atlanta, GA), 1998; and Secularisms, edited by Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pelligrini, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2008. Contributor to periodicals, including New Literary History, Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Prospects: An Annual Journal of American Cultural Studies, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, U.S. Catholic Historian, Christianity and Literature, and Journal of Women's History.
Tracy Fessenden is a scholar who teaches courses on gender, religion, and history at Arizona State University. Her areas of special expertise include western religious traditions; American religious and cultural history; and literature and religion. She has examined issues related to violence and religion, and religion and secularism in public life in America. She has written articles for periodicals and has contributed chapters to books on these topics. Fessenden worked with Nicholas F. Radel and Magdalena J. Zaborowska in editing the book The Puritan Origins of American Sex: Religion, Sexuality, and National Identity in American Literature, published in 2001. In 2007, Fessenden published the first book for which she could claim sole authorship, a study titled Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature.
In Culture and Redemption, Fessenden challenges a long-held assumption in the world of literary scholarship: the idea that "American belles-lettres after the Puritans has been largely a secular affair," wrote Candy Gunther Brown in a review of the book for Church History. Culture and Redemption is divided into two main sections. In the first half of the book, the author moves chronologically from the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century. She examines the literature and reading habits of those who lived during that time, and how Protestant culture was reinforced by the literary works and literary culture of the time. There are chapters that focus on the Bible "wars" of the nineteenth century, the life of Puritan New England, and the New England Primer, a book used widely in education during that period. In the book's second half, four literary figures whose work is profoundly connected to the secularization of New England are studied. They are Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. There is also a final section that warns of the influence—both political and cultural—of modern Christian secularism. "Throughout, the book is richly laden with profuse quotations from primary and secondary sources. The advantage of this narrative style is that there is abundant textual support for every claim," wrote Candy Gunther Brown in Church History. She further stated: "The first three chapters have the most difficulty sustaining argumentative momentum, but there are moments of pure brilliance…. It is worth the effort to tease out Fessenden's provocative claims," which include the idea that Puritan violence against outsiders grew out of their devotion to Christianity; that the New England Primer was an important instrument of secularization; and that the superficial secularization of public-school education served to maintain the precepts of Protestantism inherent in it. Brown concluded that Culture and Redemption "is a must-read for scholars interested in American literature or religion, although the complexity of the prose might prove rough going for most undergraduates." Reviewing the book for the Journal of Church and State, Jeffrey D. Groves commented: "Fessenden argues persuasively that what is usually identified as secularism is actually an ‘unmarked’ Protestantism…. As her delineation of secularism emerges throughout Culture and Redemption, Fessenden insightfully depicts the ‘tacit Protestant bias in American literary and cultural studies.’" Groves concluded that Culture and Redemption is "a book of moment, and readers will find Fessenden's treatment of secularism and American literature eye opening."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Literature, September 1, 2001, review of The Puritan Origins of American Sex: Religion, Sexuality, and National Identity in American Literature, p. 682; March 1, 2008, Michael Kaufmann, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 184.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, June 1, 2007, F.M. Szasz, review of Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature, p. 1753.
Church History, December 1, 2007, Candy Gunther Brown, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 896.
Journal of American History, September 1, 2007, James Emmett Ryan, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 531.
Journal of Church and State, January 1, 2008, Jeffrey D. Groves, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 171.
Journal of Law and Religion, Volume 23, 2007/2008, Tara Fitzpatrick, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 101.
Journal of Religion, April 1, 2002, Glenn Hendler, review of The Puritan Origins of American Sex, p. 339; July 1, 2008, W. Clark Gilpin, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 433.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, March 1, 2008, Kathryn Lofton, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 216.
Literature and Theology, December 1, 2007, Everett Hamner, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 446.
Religion, June 1, 2008, Sarah Rivett, review of Culture and Redemption, p. 205.
Arizona State University Web site,http://www.asu.edu/ (August 5, 2008), author profile.
Social Science Research Council,http://www.ssrc.org/ (August 5, 2008), author profile.