Schmidt, Leigh Eric 1961- (Leigh E. Schmidt)
Schmidt, Leigh Eric 1961- (Leigh E. Schmidt)
Born August 23, 1961, in Redlands, CA; son of Roger L. and Ann Schmidt; married R. Marie Griffith, December 29, 1995. Education: University of California, Riverside, B.A., 1983; Princeton University, M.A., 1985, Ph.D., 1987.
Stanford University, Stanford, CA, Mellon postdoctoral fellow, 1987-88; University of Oregon, Eugene, assistant professor, 1988-89; Drew University, Madison, NJ, assistant professor, 1989-94, associate professor of church history, 1994-95; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, associate professor, 1995-98, professor, 1998-2007, Agate Brown and George L. Collard Professor of Religion, 2007—. Member of editorial board, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Senses and Society, and Religion and American Culture.
American Academy of Religion, American Society of Church History, Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, American Studies Association.
Brewer Prize, American Society of Church History, for Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period; John Hope Franklin Prize, American Studies Association, and Award for Excellence in Historical Studies, American Academy of Religion, both for Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment.
Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1989, 2nd edition with new preface published as Holy Fairs: Scotland and the Making of American Revivalism, W.B. Eerdmans Publishing (Grand Rapids, MI), 2001.
Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1995.
Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
(Under name Leigh E. Schmidt; with Edwin S. Gaustad) The Religious History of America, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
(Under name Leigh E. Schmidt) Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
(Under name Leigh E. Schmidt; editor, with Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp and Mark Valeri, and contributor) Practicing Protestants: Histories of Christian Life in America, 1630-1965, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Christian Century.
Leigh Eric Schmidt is a professor of religion and author of publications on religious history. Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays explores various holiday observances in America, including St. Valentine's Day, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, and Father's Day, from the eighteenth through the twentieth century. "How the cross, the manger and various other religious and cultural icons came to be used for commercial enterprises is the subject of … Schmidt's book," summarized D.G. Hart in Christian Century. Hart added that Schmidt "provides a fascinating history of the effects of the market upon American (primarily Protestant) practices of ritual, festival and celebration."
Critical reaction to the work was mixed. Hart suggested that Schmidt was not being critical enough about the commercialization of holidays. Fred Miller Robinson wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "Filled with interesting facts and nascent ideas, Consumer Rites is a rough draft crying out for good editing … and for an approach that would allow the author access to the cultural dynamics to which he too glibly refers." Susan G. Davis, however, praised the work in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science as "engagingly written and well constructed." "Schmidt's history of American holidays," Davis wrote, "will be the standard synthesis, argument, and reference source on the commercial history of American festivals for a long time."
Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment focuses on the history of auditory phenomena in spiritual matters. According to Steven Schroeder in Booklist, the work offers a "fascinating tour … of the interplay among mysticism, science, technology, entertainment, and politics." Critics were largely positive in their assessment of Hearing Things. Schroeder singled out the work's illustrations and called the book a "sensitive portrait" of the role of hearing in religious history. A critic for Publishers Weekly called the work an "innovative study," observing that "Schmidt's study offers an important chapter in the genealogy of the modern religious imagination."
In his review for Library Journal of Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality, Gary P. Gillum noted that the book "offers a fascinating intellectual and cultural history of the distinctly American brand of interior spirituality." Schmidt presents short biographies and commentaries on individuals such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oprah Winfrey, who he believes have influenced the proliferation of spirituality as a commonly accepted practice. After giving much evidence to indicate that spiritually-inclined groups have always existed alongside or within religiously centered societies, Schmidt concentrates on following how key figures have made the pursuit of spiritual growth a unique and dominant social paradigm. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly indicated that Schmidt's background as an academic, which influences the structure and content of the book, does not detract from its readability: "Highly accessible, Schmidt is sympathetic and scholarly about a wide variety of spiritual pilgrims and paths."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, March, 1998, Susan G. Davis, review of Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays, p. 227.
Booklist, August, 2000, Steven Schroeder, review of Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment, p. 2082.
Christian Century, March 13, 1996, D.G. Hart, review of Consumer Rites, p. 304.
Commonweal, March 8, 1996, Michele Dillon, review of Consumer Rites, p. 25.
Library Journal, August 1, 2005, Gary P. Gillum, review of Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality, p. 94.
New York Times Book Review, December 3, 1995, Fred Miller Robinson, review of Consumer Rites, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, July 10, 2000, review of Hearing Things, p. 59; June 27, 2005, review of Restless Souls, p. 57.
Times Literary Supplement, August 10, 1990, review of Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period.