Ideas, Faiths and Feelings

Ideas, Faiths and Feelings : Essays on American Intellectual and Religious History, 1952-82

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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 140 x 220 x 19mm | 450g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • 0195032357
  • 9780195032352

Review Text

By the distinguished Berkeley historian: thoughtful miscellanea in a minor key. Thus, May writes about the pre-WW I roots of the cultural revolution of the 1930s, about American self-doubt (for a European audience), the "recovery of American religious history" (credited in good part to his mentors, Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. and Perry Miller), the Free Speech Movement, the "religion of the republic" (a blend of nationalism and evangelical Protestantism), etc. He is clear, unpedantic, modest, sensible, detached. Though he sometimes argues a narrowly defined thesis - e.g., that "Progressive Patriotic Protestantism" dominated the American scene from around 1815 till the collapse of the "Wilsonian crusade" in 1919 - May also, and more frequently, spins a skein of broad reflections around an issue or period. In "The Decline of Providence?" he suggests that in 18th century America the liberal-Enlightenment notion of Providence came into conflict with the biblical version, resulting in a compromise that "blurred and mingled" both the Enlightenment and Protestantism. Discussing student rebellion at Berkeley, he concludes that "this university, a triumph of organization, of competitive effort, of upward mobility, of productivity, this great concentration of specialized excellence" was the ideal epitome of America in the '50s - and for that very reason angered young people. There is nothing important here that can't be found in May's other books - but there is nothing without some modest reward either. (Kirkus Reviews)show more