Without Benefit of Clergy

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The common view of the nineteenth-century pastoral relationship—found in both contemporary popular accounts and 20th-century scholarship—was that women and clergymen formed a natural alliance and enjoyed a particular influence over each other. In Without Benefit of Clergy, Karin Gedge tests this thesis by examining the pastoral relationship from the perspective of the minister, the female parishioner, and the larger culture. The question that troubled religious women seeking counsel, says Gedge, was: would their minister respect them, help them, honor them? Surprisingly, she finds, the answer was frequently negative. Gedge supports her conclusion with evidence from a wide range of previously untapped primary sources including pastoral manuals, seminary students' and pastors' journals, women's diaries and letters, pamphlets, sentimental and sensational novels, and The Scarlet Letter.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Gedge is an astute and sympathetic reader of popular texts and never condescends to her historical subjects. She is at all times a generous and engaging host, writing with admirable command of the theological and personal stakes at risk. To her credit, she never losses sight of the larger cultural war while reckoning the personal casualties inflicted on both sides." —American Historical Review

"Gedge's kaleidoscopic re-viewing of pastors' relationships with female congregants is timely, witty, thought-provoking, and so convincing that it puts all previous portrayals in the shade."—Nancy F. Cott, author of The Bonds of Womanhood: 'Woman's Sphere' in New England, 1780-1835

"Gedge has marshaled an impressive number and range of sources to provide this engaging and multifaceted picture of the pastoral relationship. It is successful in making clear both the inadequacies of the feminization model and the benefits of exploring the gendering of American religion through the lens of the pastoral relationship."—The Journal of Religion

"Karin Gedge's Without Benefit of Clergy reconstructs the vast, sad pattern of ministerial adultery and betrayal of female worshipers that Nathaniel Hawthorne scandalously memorialized in The Scarlet Letter. Gedge's amazing research in nineteenth-century men's and women's diaries, divinity school documents, and sensationalist newspapers reveals how Victorian culture and misshapen ministerial training betrayed clergy and women alike. Without Benefit of Clergy illuminates hidden tensions about gender and sex within Victorian Protestant congregations still redolent in twenty-first century American religion."—Jon Butler, author of Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People

"Without Benefit of Clergy is an immensely rewarding book about the pastoral relationship in nineteenth-century America. Karin Gedge is a beautiful writer, and she manages to capture the explosive mixture of intimacy, neglect, love, anxiety, and abuse that marked women's relationships with their clergymen. Rarely has a historian so devastatingly exposed the problems created by the gender ideology of 'separate spheres.'" —Catherine A. Brekus, author of Strangers and Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America, 1740-1845

"Without Benefit of Clergy provides an intimate look at the relationship between ministers and their parishioners from the inside out. Casting doubt on the allegedly close bond between Protestant women and the clergy, Gedge mounts a provocative challenge to the idea that 19th century Protestantism was 'feminized' theologically or practically due to the disproportionate influence of women on the clergy."—Ann Taves, author of Fits, Trances, and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195130201
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/6/2003
  • Series: Religion in America Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Lexile: 1440L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

West Chester University
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Dim Views of the Pastoral Relationship 3
1 The Bellwether; or, What the Traveler Saw 11
2 Gone Astray; or, What the Public Feared 23
3 Mending Fences; or, What the Public Saw 49
4 Paradoxical Pastors; or, What the Novelist Imagined 77
5 Forbidden and Forgotten Territory; or, Where the Pastor Feared to Tread 111
6 The Unsteady Shepherd; or, What the Pastor Experienced 141
7 Sheep without a Shepherd; or, What Women Experienced 163
Epilogue: Separating the Ewes from the Rams; or, Seeing through a New Lens 197
App Historiographical Essay: Counting Sheep; or, What the Historian Did 209
Notes 221
Selected Bibliography 261
Index 285
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