Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment

Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment

by Leigh Eric Schmidt
ISBN-10:
0674009983
ISBN-13:
9780674009981
Pub. Date:
11/30/2002
Publisher:
Harvard

Paperback

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Overview

Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment

“Faith cometh by hearing”—so said Saint Paul, and devoted Christians from Augustine to Luther down to the present have placed particular emphasis on spiritual arts of listening. In quiet retreats for prayer, in the noisy exercises of Protestant revivalism, in the mystical pursuit of the voices of angels, Christians have listened for a divine call. But what happened when the ear tuned to God’s voice found itself under the inspection of Enlightenment critics? This book takes us into the ensuing debate about “hearing things”—an intense, entertaining, even spectacular exchange over the auditory immediacy of popular Christian piety.
The struggle was one of encyclopedic range, and Leigh Eric Schmidt conducts us through natural histories of the oracles, anatomies of the diseased ear, psychologies of the unsound mind, acoustic technologies (from speaking trumpets to talking machines), philosophical regimens for educating the senses, and rational recreations elaborated from natural magic, notably ventriloquism and speaking statues. Hearing Things enters this labyrinth—all the new disciplines and pleasures of the modern ear—to explore the fate of Christian listening during the Enlightenment and its aftermath.
In Schmidt’s analysis the reimagining of hearing was instrumental in constituting religion itself as an object of study and suspicion. The mystic’s ear was hardly lost, but it was now marked deeply with imposture and illusion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674009981
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 11/30/2002
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Leigh Eric Schmidt is Professor of Religion at Princeton University.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Responding to a Revolutionary Tradition
  • 3. Enterprise
  • 4. Careers
  • 5. Distinctions
  • 6. Intimate Relations
  • 7. Reform
  • 8. A New National Identity
  • Notes
  • Index

What People are Saying About This

Insightful, witty, succinct--would that more academic books possessed the qualities which Hearing Things displays in abundance. This is a major contribution to the analysis of a key historical problem.

David Hall

This engaging book is remarkable for the breadth and depth of its research, its freshness and analytical power, and its fluid and witty style. Leigh Schmidt makes a persuasive and essential argument for the recovery of religion as a matter of senses, while exploring the ironies of 'secularization' in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
David Hall, Divinity School, Harvard University

Roy Porter

Insightful, witty, succinct--would that more academic books possessed the qualities which Hearing Things displays in abundance. This is a major contribution to the analysis of a key historical problem.
Roy Porter, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine

Mark Noll

Hearing Things is a profound meditation on the surprisingly enduring dialectic among pre-modern, Enlightenment, and post-modern attitudes toward human experience, merged with a thoughtful account of supernatural and charismatic forms of Christianity. This is an important and an unusually insightful book.
Mark Noll, Wheaton College

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