The "Businessmen's Revival" was a religious revival that unfolded in the wake of the 1857 market crash among white, middle-class Protestants. Delving into the religious history of Boston in the 1850s, John Corrigan gives an imaginative and wide-ranging interpretive study of the revival's significance. He uses it as a focal point for addressing a spectacular range of phenomena in American culture: the ecclesiastical and business history of Boston; gender roles and family life; the history of the theater and public spectacle; education; boyculture; and, especially, ideas about emotion during this period.
This vividly written narrative recovers the emotional experiences of individuals from a wide array of little-used sources including diaries, correspondence, public records, and other materials. From these sources, Corrigan discovers that for these Protestants, the expression of emotion was a matter of transactions. They saw emotion as a commodity, and conceptualized relations between people, and between individuals and God, as transactions of emotion governed by contract. Religion became a business relation with God, with prayer as its legal tender. Entering this relationship, they were conducting the "business of the heart." This innovative study shows that the revival--with its commodification of emotional experience--became an occasion for white Protestants to underscore differences between themselves and others. The display of emotion was a primary indicator of membership in the Protestant majority, as much as language, skin color, or dress style. As Corrigan unravels the significance of these culturally constructed standards for emotional life, his book makes an important contribution to recent efforts to explore the links between religion and emotion, and is an important new chapter in the history of religion.
Introduction: Religion, Emotion, and the Double Self
1. The Businessmen’s Revival
2. The Anxiety of Boston at Mid-Century
3. Overexcitement, Economic Collapse, and the Regulation of Business
4. Emotion, Collective Performance, and Value
5. Emotional Religion and the Ministerial "Balance-Wheel"
6. Men, Women, and Emotion
7. Domestic Contracts
8. Clerks, Apprentices, and Boyculture
9. Prayerful Transactions
10. Emotion, Character, and Ethnicity
Epilogue: The Meaning of the Revival and Its Legacy
Appendix 1. History, Religion, and Emotion: A Historiographical Survey
Appendix 2. Emotion as Heart, Blood, and Body
Appendix 3. Emotion and the Common Sense Philosophy
John Corrigan is the Edwin Scott Gaustad Professor of Religion and Professor of History at Florida State University. He has served as regular or visiting faculty at the University of Virginia, Harvard, Oxford, Arizona State University, University of London, University of Wittenberg-Halle, and University College (Dublin), and as a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome.
"Corrigan does much more than research and describe the religious revival of 1857-58. He gives us an imaginative and wide-ranging interpretative study of the revival's significance. He addresses an extraordinary range of phenomena-the turns of the business cycle in the 1850s, the social and ecclesiastical history of Boston, immigration and ethnic history, sex role differentiation, and the vexing problem of why males find it difficult to express their emotions. Altogether, I find this a fascinating, rewarding, and highly original new book."—Daniel Walker Howe, Rhodes Professor of History, Oxford University
"This is an important contribution to American religious and cultural history. Corrigan draws together interpretive angles from social, intellectual, and religious history, as well as from the emergent field of the history of the emotions, in which he is doing path-breaking work."—Peter W. Williams, Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Comparative Religion, Miami University
"John Corrigan's book is a terrific study of religion, emotion and society in the nineteenth century."—Joyce Appleby, Professor of History, University of California at Los Angeles
"What Kuhn did for the history of science, or Geertz for cultural anthropology, Corrigan does for American religious history. He has written a breakthrough book that defines a fresh approach and merits the widest possible audience. His adroit and artful book shows us how to think anew about things prosaic and matters divine by revealing their complex entanglements and mutual transformations. Modernity gains here a compelling and engaging interpreter."—Joel Martin, Rupert Costo Professor of History, University of California, Riverside