The Chautauqua Moment: Protestants, Progressives, and the Culture of Modern Liberalism, 1874-1920

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Overview

This book traces the rise and decline of what Theodore Roosevelt once called the "most American thing in America." The Chautauqua movement began in 1874 on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in western New York. More than a college or a summer resort or a religious assembly, it was a composite of all of these -- completely derivative yet brilliantly innovative. For five decades, Chautauqua dominated adult education and reached millions with its summer assemblies, reading clubs, and traveling circuits.

Scholars have long struggled to make sense of Chautauqua's pervasive yet disorganized presence in American life. In this critical study, Andrew Rieser weaves the threads of Chautauqua into a single story and places it at the vital center of fin de siècle cultural and political history. Famous for its commitment to democracy, women's rights, and social justice, Chautauqua was nonetheless blind to issues of class and race. How could something that trumpeted democracy be so undemocratic in practice? The answer, Rieser argues, lies in the historical experience of the white, Protestant middle classes, who struggled to reconcile their parochial interests with radically new ideas about social progress and the state. The Chautauqua Moment brings color to a colorless demographic and spins a fascinating tale of modern liberalism's ambivalent but enduring cultural legacy.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

New York History - Thomas N. Baker

The Chautauqua Moment is a rich, multi-faceted exploration of one of the... Most influential and elusive movements... Students of state history will learn much from The Chautauqua Moment.

Reviews in American History - Amy Kittelstrom

Destined to be a seminal text not only on the Chautauqua moment but also on... the progressive-era white middle class.

H-Net Reviews - Paul Hillmer

Rieser winsomely and insightfully presents and analyzes the flaws, the merits, and the contradictions... of the Chautauqua movement.

The Annals of Iowa

As the first critical analysis of this influential social movement, this book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the process of creation of white, middle-class identity and the assertion of the hegemony by that class.

New York History
The Chautauqua Moment is a rich, multi-faceted exploration of one of the... Most influential and elusive movements... Students of state history will learn much from The Chautauqua Moment.

— Thomas N. Baker

Reviews in American History
Destined to be a seminal text not only on the Chautauqua moment but also on... the progressive-era white middle class.

— Amy Kittelstrom

H-Net Reviews
Rieser winsomely and insightfully presents and analyzes the flaws, the merits, and the contradictions... of the Chautauqua movement.

— Paul Hillmer

The Journal of American History - Robert D. Johnson

Andrew C. Rieser breaks new ground in his sophisticated and exhaustive treatment of Chautauqua. Rieser's breadth of topics is impressive.

The Journal of American History
Andrew C. Rieser breaks new ground in his sophisticated and exhaustive treatment of Chautauqua. Rieser's breadth of topics is impressive.

— Robert D. Johnson

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231126427
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/29/2003
  • Series: Religion and American Culture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew C. Rieser is a past fellow of the Pew Program in religion and American history at Yale University and has taught at several universities in New York and the Midwest.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Chautauqua's Liberal CreedAn American Forum: Methodist Camp Meetings and the Rise of Social ChristianityCanopy of Cultures: Democracy Under the Big Tent of ProsperityThe Never-Ending Vacation: Boosters, Tourists, and the Fantasyscape of ChautauquaInventing the White Public: Webs of Region, Race, and Nationalism in the Chautauqua MovementFrom Parlor to Politics: Chautauqua and the Institutionalization of Middle-Class WomanhoodUseful Knowledge and Its Critics: The Messiness of Popular Education in the 1890sSuccess Through Failure: Chautauqua in the Progressive Era

Columbia University Press

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