The story of secularization and religious disestablishment in American higher education is told from the standpoint of a lively community of professors, students, and administrators at the University of Michigan in the late nineteenth century. This campus culture--one of the most closely watched of its day--sheds new light on the personal and cultural meanings of these momentous changes in American intellectual and public life. Here we see how religion was not so much displaced or marginalized in the heyday of university reform as translated into new arenas of public service and scholarly pursuit. The main characters in this story--professors Calvin Thomas and Henry Carter Adams--underwent profound religious crises of faith accompanied by major adjustments in their interpersonal relationships. Together, with students and administrators, their lives constituted a communal biography of religious deconversion. A close examination of these private and public worlds provides a more complete understanding of the dynamics behind new academic policies and intellectual innovations in a leading public university. The non-cognitive, intersubjective, gendered, quasi-religious shadings of academic modernism and early pragmatist philosophy, in particular, come to light in vivid ways. As John Dewey later observed, Michigan became an experimental laboratory for "new meanings to unfold, new acts to propose."
Endorsements & Reviews-
"By focusing on two individuals of note--neither of them so noted that we have them typed in advance--he provides a picture of the striving and struggling that went on among students whose crises cannot be written off as merely adolescent. This he follows with a story of how they worked through their struggles and how sensitive they had to be to people they feared they would hurt, or who they were sure would not understand. And Harrold serves well also by providing that close-up of a struggle at a single place, not an insignificant one: the University of Michigan was the largest university in the United States in the period in which these dramas took place. Michigan was much observed as a scene of experiment, and this book shows what the experimenting looked like. . . . I want to invite readers to enjoy, be informed by, and to reflect after reading this previously untold story." --Martin E. Marty from the Foreword
Philip E. Harrold
Philip Harrold is Associate Professor of Church History at Winebrenner Theological Seminary. He completed his PhD in the History of Christianity from the University of Chicago Divinity School.