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1. Sacred Violence in Early America (Early American Studies)


Sacred Violence in Early America offers a sweeping reinterpretation of the violence endemic to seventeenth-century English colonization by reexamining some of the key moments of cultural and religious encounter in North America. Susan Juster explores different forms of sacred violenceblood sacrifice, holy war, malediction, and iconoclasmto uncover how European traditions of ritual violence developed during the wars of the Reformation were introduced and ultimately transformed in the New World.

Juster's central argument concerns the rethinking of the relationship between the material and the spiritual worlds that began with the Reformation and reached perhaps its fullest expression on the margins of empire. The Reformation transformed the Christian landscape from an environment rich in sounds, smells, images, and tactile encounters, both divine and human, to an austere space of scriptural contemplation and prayer. When English colonists encountered the gods and rituals of the New World, they were forced to confront the unresolved tensions between the material and spiritual within their own religious practice. Accounts of native cannibalism, for instance, prompted uneasy comparisons with the ongoing debate among Reformers about whether Christ was bodily present in the communion wafer.

Sacred Violence in Early America reveals the Old World antecedents of the burning of native bodies and texts during the seventeenth-century wars of extermination, the prosecution of heretics and blasphemers in colonial courts, and the destruction of chapels and mission towns up and down the North American seaboard. At the heart of the book is an analysis of "theologies of violence" that gave conceptual and emotional shape to English colonists' efforts to construct a New World sanctuary in the face of enemies both familiar and strange: blood sacrifice, sacramentalism, legal and philosophical notions of just and holy war, malediction, the contest between "living" and "dead" images in Christian idology, and iconoclasm.

2. Disorderly Women: Sexual Politics and Evangelicalism in Revolutionary New England


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Throughout most of the eighteenth century and particularly during the religious revivals of the Great Awakening, evangelical women in colonial New England participated vigorously in major church decisions, from electing pastors to disciplining backsliding members. After the Revolutionary War, however, women were excluded from political life, not only in their churches but in the new republic as well. Reconstructing the history of this change, Susan Juster shows how a common view of masculinity and femininity shaped both radical religion and revolutionary politics in America.

Juster compares contemporary accounts of Baptist women and men who voice their conversion experiences, theological opinions, and proccupation with personal conflicts and pastoral controversies. At times, the ardent revivalist message of spiritual individualism appeared to sanction sexual anarchy. According to one contemporary, revival attempted "to make all things common, wives as well as goods." The place of women at the center of evangelical life in the mid-eighteenth century, Juster finds, reflected the extent to which evangelical religion itself was perceived as "feminine"emotional, sensional, and ultimately marginal.

In the 1760s, the Baptist order began to refashion its mission, and what had once been a community of saintsoften indifferent to conventional moral or legal constraintswas transformed into a society of churchgoers with a concern for legitimacy. As the church was reconceptualized as a "household" ruled by "father" figures, "feminine" qualities came to define the very essence of sin. Juster observes that an image of benevolent patriarchy threatened by the specter of female power was a central motif of the wider political culture during the age of democratic revolutions.

3. Warfare and the Miraculous in the Chronicles of the First Crusade


In Warfare and the Miraculous in the Chronicles of the First Crusade, Elizabeth Lapina examines a variety of these chronicles, written both by participants in the crusade and by those who stayed behind. Her goal is to understand the enterprise from the perspective of its contemporaries and near contemporaries. Lapina analyzes the diversity of ways in which the chroniclers tried to justify the First Crusade as a holy war, where physical violence could be not just sinless, but salvific.

The book focuses on accounts of miracles reported to have happened in the course of the crusade, especially the miracle of the intervention of saints in the Battle of Antioch. Lapina shows why and how chroniclers used these miracles to provide historical precedent and to reconcile the messiness of history with the conviction that history was ordered by divine will. In doing so, she provides an important glimpse into the intellectual efforts of the chronicles and their authors, illuminating their perspectives toward the concepts of history, salvation, and the East. Warfare and the Miraculous in the Chronicles of the First Crusade demonstrates how these narratives sought to position the crusade as an event in the time line of sacred history. Lapina offers original insights into the effects of the crusade on the Western imaginary as well as how medieval authors thought about and represented history.


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Alyssa Salazar