Material History of American Religion Project

Leigh Eric Schmidt

Hearing Things:
The Mystic's Ear and the Voices of Reason

In American religious life, Leigh Schmidt argues, the "voice" has a slippery authority. Religious leaders, from establishment clergy to "crackpots", claim to hear a divine voice that calls them to preach, and tells them what to say. His investigation of this complex phenomenon, focusing particularly on the early republic, looks at four groups claiming the voice:

Schmidt concludes that much of twentieth-century American religion is still taken up with these issues--the persistence of Enlightenment models of pathologizing religious voices, the culture of showmanship's absorption of religion's oracular power, and the popular surfeit of Pentecostal tongues and channeled spirits. For an example of this work, see the article on ventriloquism and the Enlightenment in the Electronic Journal.

After six years of teaching in the Theological and Graduate Schools of Drew University, Leigh Eric Schmidt has returned as associate professor of religion to Princeton University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1987. His dissertation, published by Princeton University Press as Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period, received the Brewer Prize from the American Society of Church History. His most recent book, also from Princeton, is Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays. He has published many articles and reviews, and serves on the editorial board of Church History.

Department of Religion
1879 Hall
Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey 08544-1006

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