Thesis ID: CBB729100959

Religion and Madness: Contests over Faith and Insanity in the American Cultural Imaginary, 1840-1920 (2020)


This dissertation is a cultural history of the co-identification of religion and insanity over the long nineteenth century. It examines how the medical and popular label of insanity or “religious insanity” was deployed to impugn, subvert and slate for imprisonment and institutionalization diverse new American religious identities. Furthermore, it analyzes how the insanity label functioned to forward and undergird a constellation of gendered and racial presumptions. The project moves chronologically from considerations of early 19th century white evangelical revivalism, Second Adventism (Millerism) and Spiritualism to later nineteenth century examinations including post-Emancipation African American millenarian movements, Pentecostalism and Christian Science. Mad-labeled new religious individuals and groups actively contended with pathologized interpretations of their faith as a means of defending themselves from the cultural implications of madness. This work demonstrates how debates over religious insanity constituted a complex cultural reckoning regarding the diversity of expressions and interpretations within American religious life.

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Authors & Contributors
Martin, Emily
Anderson, Stuart
Cervetti, Nancy
Dunst, Alexander
Gavrus, Delia
Guise-Richardson, Catherine
History of Psychiatry
Journal of American Culture
American Quarterly
Health and History
Journal of Global History
Pharmacy in History
University of Massachusetts Press
AMS Press
Éditions Rue d'Ulm
Pennsylvania State University Press
Princeton University Press
Medicine and culture
Mental disorders and diseases
Medicine and society
Medicine and gender
Public health
Janet, Pierre
Mitchell, Silas Weir
Morita, Masatake
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
21st century
20th century
Progressive Era (1890s-1920s)
United States

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