In the past year I devoted most of my time to finishing up my PhD coursework and studying for my comprehensive exams (ok, ok, and also to reorganizing my fantasy basketball league into an auction draft format). I also wrote a few things for various online and offline outlets. Continuing with the practice I started last year, here is a brief summary of my non-coursework public writing for the year, organized thematically.
I published one peer-reviewed article in 2015: "From the Pulpit to the Press: Frank Crane’s Omaha, 1892-1896." The article appeared in Nebraska History. You can read an excerpt here or read about the inspiration for the article here at the blog. One unintended consequence of my research: I discovered that a few of Flannery O'Connor's biographers have misidentified her "favorite Protestant theologian."
My favorite piece I wrote in 2015 was published by Religion & Politics as part of their "States of the Union" project. Here's how Religion & Politics explains the project: "We gathered writers from around the country to tell us about where they discovered religion and politics in their states. Both part of a union and cultures unto their own, these states reveal stories of people, places and histories of the American experience." My contribution to the series was titled "Nebraska: A Cornhusker Prays with FCA." Basically, I got to combine all of my favorite things in writing the article: Nebraska, sports, religion. The process of researching and writing that article also played an important role in my decision to change my dissertation topic (but more on that another time, perhaps).
My favorite blog post from 2015: The Rest of Tom Osborne's "Currens Story." For those who don't know, Tom Osborne was Nebraska's legendary head football coach from the 1970s through most of the 1990s. Sometime in the fall, I was taking a break from my prelim reading by doing a bit of dissertation research. As it so happens, my dissertation research involves (among other things) reading about Tom Osborne. While reading, I came across Osborne's familiar story about how a man he identifies as "Rev. Currens" played an inspirational role in his grandfather's life. I decided to do some armchair research to see what I could find out about this Rev. Currens character, and a few hours later I had a Notepad document full of notes and a blog post set to publish. As an added bonus, when I went back home to Nebraska for the holidays, my wife's grandmother told me that she usually doesn't read most of the things I write, but she actually read and enjoyed the Currens post.
Sometimes I get the urge to do completely unnecessary and methodologically amateurish research. My post on Comparing the Religious Affiliation of Omaha's Elites with Omaha's Population, 1910 was one such example. The title of the blog post basically sums up what I was trying to do. It also features a bar graph, if you're into that sort of thing.
This counts as writing, right? I received two research grants this year. One, from the State Historical Society of Iowa, funded research for a proposed article titled “Religion and Reform in Iowa’s ‘Progressive City,’ 1890-1910.” I conducted the research for the article in the fall, and will be submitting an article based on that research to The Annals of Iowa by September of 2016.
The second grant came from the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas. It funds research focusing on the African American experience in Kansas and in the Great Plains region. Thanks to this grant, I will be traveling up to Kansas in January.
Finally, here is a list of the other things I wrote or compiled in 2015, mostly related to books and book reviews. If you only click on one of the following links, click on the "Bibliography of Urban American Religious History." I got to ride Lincoln Mullen's coattails on that one, which is always a good idea.
American Religion/Historical Reflections
What Would Karl Wettstone Read? Liberal Protestantism and Popular Religious Reading (Religion in American History blog)
The Imagined Atheist in the Early Republic (American Society of Church History's blog)
Toward a Bibliography of Religion in the Midwest (RiAH blog)
2015 American Religious History Book Preview Lists (RiAH blog)
A Bibliography of Urban American Religious History (collaboration with Lincoln Mullen)
*explanation by me here, and by Lincoln here
“Reporting the Revival: Lena Mason’s Interracial Evangelistic Campaign in the Midwest, 1895- 1905.”
*Presented at the annual spring meeting of the American Society of Church History. April 2015.
“‘A wondrous compatibility of theological positions’: The Early Diversity of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, 1954-1970.”
*Presented at The Spirit of Sports: Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, November 2015.
David Surdam, The Rise of the National Basketball Association (Putz blog)
Murry Nelson, The National Basketball League: A History 1935-1949 (Putz blog)
Edward O'Donnell, Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age (Putz blog)
*this review was 2015's most-read post at the Putz blog.
Annie Blazer, Playing for God: Evangelical Women and the Unintended Consequences of Sports Ministry (RiAH blog)
Kristin Kobes Du Mez, A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Problem of Christian Feminism (RiAH blog)
*this was an interview rather than a review
Josh McMullen, Under the Big Top: Big Tent Revivalism and American Culture, 1885-1925 (RiAH blog)
Tekla Agbala Ali Johnson, Free Radical: Ernest Chambers, Black Power, and the Politics of Race (Middle West Review)
William Mirola, Redeeming Time: Protestantism and Chicago's Eight-Hour Movement, 1866-1912 (Fides et Historia)