A Cheerful and Comfortable Study of Colonial Material Religion

Paul Harvey

Since yesterday I mentioned Lauren Winner's essay in the Sunday Times book review, which reflected on Rob Bell and American conceptions of hell (and heaven), seems like a good time to showcase this review of her new book A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith, recently published by Yale -- the review is from Choice.

Winner, Lauren F. A cheerful and comfortable faith: Anglican religious practice in the elite households of eighteenth-century Virginia. Yale, 2010. 272p bibl index afp ISBN 0-300-12469-4, $45.00; ISBN 9780300124699, $45.00. Reviewed in 2011may CHOICE.

This study by Winner (Duke Divinity School) of the domestic religious life of elite families in Colonial Virginia both builds upon and modifies earlier work, including Dell Upton's Holy Things and Profane (1986). As Upton did, Winner focuses primarily on material objects as evidence; however, she deals not with public, male-dominated church buildings but rather with articles found in and around the home: needlework, baptismal bowls, prayer books, articles related to food preparation and consumption, and garments and rings worn in times of mourning. Winner's argues that although their roles were circumscribed, Anglican women nevertheless carved out a sphere in which they subtly contested the authority over religious matters claimed by clergy and male relatives and that their religious life, though not as dramatic as that of their Puritan counterparts, was an authentic appropriation of Anglican tradition in a Colonial setting. Winner's work is thoroughly and imaginatively researched, informed but not overwhelmed by theory, adequately illustrated, and accessibly written. This book is an important contribution to Anglican, elite, Colonial, material, and gendered dimensions of American religious life. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty.
-- P. W. Williams, Miami University


Anonymous said…
looks like another great book - can't wait to read this summer!
Anonymous said…
Looking forward to reading it and hope to see how it build on and/or supplements works such as Rhys Isaac and a number of others.

Curtis J. Evans

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