By November 4, 2009

In thumbing through Gwenfair Walters Adams’s Visions in Late Medieval England (Brill, 2007), I was surprised to see the following as the last line of her acknowledgements: “And ultimately, I am most grateful to God.”

Having never seen this before my question are 1) has anybody else ever seen such a thing, and 2) would you ever consider doing such a thing? Why or why not?

Article filed under Methodology, Academic Issues


  1. The closest I’ve seen is the kind of interview where an athlete “gives the glory to God” for his (the athlete’s) not having fumbled the ball.

    I don’t like those — I think it’s out of place and insincere, because athletes are so cocky that you just know they’re thanking God publicly when privately they are convinced it was their personal skill that saved the play.

    I’m not familiar with this book. It sounds, though, as if the acknowledgment might be in character with the worldview of the people she (? he?) wrote about, and if so it feels to me more like a statement of affection for the people the author has spent years studying. If so, that’s kind of nice.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — November 4, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  2. Johann Sebastian Bach famously included the inscription SDG at the end of many of his compositions. Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone the glory. G.F. Handel did the same to a lesser extent.

    Also from the music sphere, whenever New York Philharmonic principal trumpetist Philip Smith receives an ovation he raises his hand and points one finger upward symbolizing to whom the credit should go. Comes from his Salvation Army heritage, no doubt.

    Comment by Alex — November 4, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

  3. Dan Brown, might disagree on the origin, Alex 🙂

    Comment by Bret — November 4, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  4. Oh, I should also mention that any Country musician who ever receives an award for anything thanks God among the list of acknowledgees.

    Comment by Alex — November 4, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  5. Haha, Bret, nice.

    Comment by Alex — November 4, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  6. I guess I meant this in the context of scholarly writing. The line comes after a long list of thank yous, just after thanking her mother. Also, Adams teaches at a theological seminary.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — November 4, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  7. I am reminded of the line in the play/movie Shenandoah where the father, in saying grace over the meal, always says the same thing:

    “Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen.

    Even this is a bit more sincere than what we see at the Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy awards shows.

    Comment by kevinf — November 4, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  8. Never seen or considered that before either. If it can be done in a way that doesn’t read as aggressive or naive to a scholarly audience, then I say sure. Perhaps it can be seen as part of the trend away from objectivity and toward disclosure.

    Comment by Ryan T — November 4, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  9. i’ve seen it a couple times. seems like it’s usually evangelical Protestants. Seems like people like Noll and Marsden have made it respectable again, though that’s an off-the-cuff response.

    Comment by smb — November 4, 2009 @ 4:28 pm

  10. I see it from time to time, as the disclosure trend moves in and out of vogue. I would never do it. Never.

    Comment by SC Taysom — November 4, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  11. Not to miss the boat on your question again, but I favor the practice of including the acknowledgements as part of a “Preface” or “Introduction.” When presented that way they seem more inclined to weave the thank-yous into a discussion of the creation process of the monograph, background information on the author’s reason for interest, and sometimes brief journey through the historiography–usually providing helpful context.

    Comment by Alex — November 4, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

  12. Sam, evangelical Protestant disciples of Marsden have made the practice popular among certain evangelical Protestants. [Guilty] I think it’s a reasonable thing to do. Readers always want to know. At least, whenever I assign a book on any sort of American religion, my students always ask me if I know a little bit about the religious background of the author. In general, knowing where an author is coming from is a useful piece of information.

    I also know most of my colleagues in the academy find the practice objectionable. I would find gushy tributes to God (or really any tributes) equally objectionable.

    Bushman acknowledges his faith in RSR — the Latter-day Saint Marsden.

    Comment by John Turner — November 4, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

  13. I feel that the acknowledgements section is where an author should be entitled to become a bit more familiar, a little less formal, if he or she desires. “God knows” that those acknowledgements in some books become hopelessly rote-sounding, tedious and long, so He might appreciate this departure from the expected, if it is done with a little grace and not too much pretense.

    Comment by Rick Grunder — November 5, 2009 @ 12:53 am


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