In February, Oxford University Press will release “Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England” by Abram Van Engen (Washington University). The publisher’s description follows:
Revising dominant accounts of Puritanism and challenging the literary history of sentimentalism, Sympathetic Puritans argues that a Calvinist theology of sympathy shaped the politics, religion, rhetoric, and literature of early New England. Scholars have often understood and presented sentimentalism as a direct challenge to stern and stoic Puritan forebears; the standard history traces a cult of sensibility back to moral sense philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment, not Puritan New England. Abram C. Van Engen has unearthed pervasive evidence of sympathy in a large archive of Puritan sermons, treatises, tracts, poems, journals, histories, and captivity narratives. He demonstrates how two types of sympathy — the active command to fellow-feel (a duty), as well as the passive sign that could indicate salvation (a discovery) — permeated Puritan society and came to define the very boundaries of English culture, affecting conceptions of community, relations with Native Americans, and the development of American literature.
Van Engen re-examines the Antinomian Controversy, conversion narratives, transatlantic relations, Puritan missions, Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative — and Puritan culture more generally — through the lens of sympathy. Demonstrating and explicating a Calvinist theology of sympathy in seventeenth-century New England, the book reveals the religious history of a concept that has previously been associated with more secular roots.
This past November, Princeton University Press released “Confronting Political Islam: Six Lessons from the West’s Past” by John M. Owen IV (University of Virginia). The publisher’s description follows:
How should the Western world today respond to the challenges of political Islam? Taking an original approach to answer this question, Confronting Political Islam compares Islamism’s struggle with secularism to other prolonged ideological clashes in Western history. By examining the past conflicts that have torn Europe and the Americas—and how they have been supported by underground networks, fomented radicalism and revolution, and triggered foreign interventions and international conflicts—John Owen draws six major lessons to demonstrate that much of what we think about political Islam is wrong.
Owen focuses on the origins and dynamics of twentieth-century struggles among Communism, Fascism, and liberal democracy; the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century contests between monarchism and republicanism; and the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars of religion between Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and others. Owen then applies principles learned from the successes and mistakes of governments during these conflicts to the contemporary debates embroiling the Middle East. He concludes that ideological struggles last longer than most people presume; ideologies are not monolithic; foreign interventions are the norm; a state may be both rational and ideological; an ideology wins when states that exemplify it outperform other states across a range of measures; and the ideology that wins may be a surprise.
Looking at the history of the Western world itself and the fraught questions over how societies should be ordered, Confronting Political Islam upends some of the conventional wisdom about the current upheavals in the Muslim world.