Pilgrims and Seekers: American Spirituality from Transcendentalism to the New Age

  • Faculty: Leigh Eric Schmidt
  • Schedule: Wednesdays 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Course Number: L57 RelPol 430

This seminar focuses on the formation of “spirituality” in American culture from the Transcendentalist world of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman on through more recent expressions of the “spiritual-but-not-religious” sensibility. For the purposes of this course, “spirituality” is usefully placed in quotation marks in order to emphasize its peculiar construction as something positively distinct from “religion” – a reordering of American religious thought and experience that we will explore in historical and contemporaneous terms. The social and political consequences of this turn to the spiritual over the religious will also be explored: for example, the consecration of liberal individualism, the environmental vision of nature mysticism, the blessing of a “bourgeois-bohemian” consumerism, and the negotiation of cultural pluralism.