New Journal of Mormon History Issue, Featuring a Roundtable on John Brooke’s REFINER’S FIRE

By October 30, 2015

JMH CoverThe latest issue of Journal of Mormon History is hot off the press this week and is now available to download for those of you who are members of the Mormon History Association. (And if you’re not a member, you can fix that right now.) Below are the articles in the issue:

  • RoseAnn Benson, “Alexander Campbell: Another Restorationist”
  • Nancy S. Kader, “The Young Democrats and Hugh Nibley at BYU”
  • Gregory A. Prince, “Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Historical Context: How a Historical Narrative Became Theological”
  • Gary James Bergera, “Memory as Evidence: Dating Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages to Louisa Beaman, Zina Jacobs, and Presendia Buell”
  • Elise Boxer, “The Lamanites Shall Blossom as the Rose: The Indian Student Placement Program, Mormon Whiteness, and Indigenous Identity”

Also included in the issue is a roundtable I put together reassessing John Brooke’s Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (Cambridge UP), which was published just over two decades ago. The contributors and their titles are as follows:

  • Benjamin Park, “Camelot’s Crucible: The Historiographic Context for Refiner’s Fire
  • Susanna Morrill, “The Refiner’s Fire: Rites of Scholarly Passage”
  • Stephen J. Felming, Egil Asprem, and Ann Taves, “Refiner’s Fire and the Yates Thesis: Hermeticism, Esotericism, and the History of Christianity”
  • David F. Holland, “Narrative Arcs and Scholarly Nerve”
  • Neil Kamil, “The Refiner’s Fire’s Atlantic”
  • John Brooke, “The Refiner’s Fire: In Retrospect”

I’m happy to say that the roundtable turned out even better than I expected. Each contribution focuses on a different facet of the book and its reception: I give an overview of the Mormon and American history fields, Susanna Morrill overviews the context of religious studies, the UC-Santa Barbara team (Fleming, Asprem, and Taves) assess Brooke’s work in light of recent scholarship in hermeticism and neo-platonism, David Holland looks at themes of historical methodology, and Neil Kamil talks about the book’s importance to scholarship on the Atlantic world. Below is my brief introduction to the roundtable:

Few books have received such a dichotomous academic reception in American history, let alone Mormon history, as John Brooke’s Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994). The recipient of the Bancroft Prize, one of the premier awards for work in American history, as well as the Best Book Award from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, it was skewered by Mormon academics and largely rejected by the Mormon historical field. Yet the book has remained monumental in American religious and intellectual history, is often the only book on Mormonism on most graduate history students’ comprehensive exams, and is likely one of the most-read book on Mormonism by American academics. In this roundtable, we reassess the book, its reception, and its lessons for the field today from a variety of perspectives and conclusions. Are there elements in the book that still remain overlooked? How have the fields of American religious history and Mormon studies changed in the last two decades? And what can we conclude about the interactions between these two fields?

These are our questions, and what follows are our tentative answers. John Brooke has been gracious enough to provide his own response to the papers, and his thoughts on the book after twenty years, at the end of the roundtable.

I hope the roundtable will lead to more discussion on our field and its historiographic underpinnings. Happy reading!

Article filed under Book and Journal Reviews Categories of Periodization: Origins Historiography Intellectual History Methodology, Academic Issues Reassessing the Classics


Comments

  1. Great stuff, Ben. Kudos to you and Brooke and everyone else involved.

    Comment by Christopher — October 30, 2015 @ 10:14 am

  2. Yes thanks for putting that together, Ben. Brooke looked like he really enjoyed it.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — October 30, 2015 @ 10:51 am


Series

Recent Comments

Roger Terry on Barbara Jones Brown: MHA's: “Congratulations, Barbara. The MHA found a great executive director.”


Jessica N on Author's Response: Mueller's *Race: “Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful response, Max. I don't know if you'll see this or not but I am appreciative of the way…”


Steve Fleming on Book Review: William Smith,: “Good points, David. I could have listed many more strengths of the book, and those quibbles I mentioned probably took up an inordinate amount of…”


David G. on Book Review: William Smith,: “Thanks, Steve. I think it's an important book and continues Bill's important textual work, both in terms of production and reception, on the revelations. You…”


Ardis on Ministering, Home Teaching, and: “Well, this explains, in part, at least, has never worked for me. Without the one-and-only approved model home at the center, nothing else quite fits.…”


Ben P on Series Preview: Introductions to: “...and to quickly add, I would hope that whoever writes a Lee bio would do so in a way that appropriately reflects the #MormonMeToo concerns.”

Topics


juvenileinstructor.org
%d bloggers like this: