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University of Tennessee, Knoxville, B.A., Psychology, 2001; Middle Tennessee State University, M.A., History, 2007.
Early American Religion and Culture, Southern History, Print Culture, Women/Gender/Sexuality
Dr. Christine Heyrman
"Living in the Light: Evangelicals and the Transformation of American Quakerism, 1720-1770"
By revisiting the history of the Society of Friends in America from 1720-1770, my dissertation challenges the interpretation of Quakers as a “peculiar people” existing outside the mainstream of American religious history. Scholars have long neglected the similarities between Quakers and other Protestant groups in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world—particularly the kinship between Quakers and radical evangelicals—in favor of highlighting the unique qualities of Friends. Despite important theological differences, Quakers and evangelicals existed along a continuum of Protestant belief and shared a number of important religious values. Both cherished the inspirational power of the Holy Spirit, promoted a radically individualistic piety, and affirmed that authentic religion was, at root, experiential. As the evangelical awakenings reached their peak visibility during the 1740s and 1750s, reforming Friends began to capitalize on this religious energy and channel it in peculiarly Quaker ways. Although shaped by the distinctive style and practice of Friends, the Quaker “reformation” of the mid-eighteenth century was, in fact, one manifestation of the general awakening among transatlantic Protestants. Beyond rethinking the story of eighteenth-century Quakerism, the significance of this study lies in its exploration of the tense and dynamic exchange of religious ideas both in the colonies and abroad. In order to trace the relationship between Quakers and evangelicals, the dissertation is organized into chronological and comparative chapters around the themes of religious renewal, transatlantic networks, gender, discipline, and spiritual autobiography.