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November 12, 2007
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American Catholics in the Protestant Imagination

Rethinking the Academic Study of Religion

Michael P. Carroll argues that the academic study of religion in the United States continues to be shaped by a "Protestant imagination" that has warped our perception of the American religious experience and its written history and analysis.

In this provocative study, Carroll explores a number of historiographical puzzles that emerge from the American Catholic story as it has been understood through the Protestant tradition. Reexamining the experience of Catholicism among Irish immigrants, Italian Americans, Acadians and Cajuns, and Hispanics, Carroll debunks the myths that have informed much of this history.

Shedding new light on lived religion in America, Carroll moves an entire academic field in new, exciting directions and challenges his fellow scholars to open their minds and eyes to develop fresh interpretations of American religious history.

About the Author

Michael P. Carroll is a professor of sociology at the University of Western Ontario. He is the author of The Penitente Brotherhood: Patriarchy and Hispano-Catholicism in New Mexico; Irish Pilgrimage: Holy Wells and Popular Catholic Devotion; Veiled Threats: The Logic of Popular Catholicism in Italy; and Madonnas That Maim: Popular Catholicism in Italy since the Fifteenth Century, all published by Johns Hopkins.


"A provocative work... Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty/researchers."

- Choice

"A lively—and often brilliant—book that launches a frontal assault on the received wisdom of how U.S. Catholics understand their history... Scholarly, readable and often rollicking."

- Mark S. Massa - Commonweal

"The book has many virtues, among which are brevity, clarity, conciseness, deft use of illustrative material from American religious history, and a prose style that is engaging and not at all complicated by the deep thinking it conveys. It is a fine book that deserves a wide readership in the profession."

- William M. Shea - Catholic Historical Review

"One rarely reads a book in which historiography is as foregrounded as it is in this one, but Carroll's primary concern is the history of the academic study of religion."

- Thomas Saunders Kidd - Journal of American History

"Required reading not only for those working in the field of American Roman Catholic studies, but all in the origins, sources and practice of religious studies."

- Iain S. Maclean - Religious Studies Review

"Carroll is a passionate critic and writer; his ambitiousness is admirable and commendable"

- Kristy Nabhan-Warren - Journal of Religion

"An important contribution to the study of American religion."

- Maura Jane Farrelly - Church History

"Carroll's scholarly contribution to both Catholic studies and religious studies is innovative and substantial. His challenge to the 'Protestant Degradation Narrative' is creative, credible, and one that is long overdue. Carroll is insightful in illuminating discrepancies between actual historical fact and (Protestant) theological assumptions in regard to both the definition and understanding of God and that of religion. Fascinating and original, this seminal work will invoke rigorous debate and advance scholarly thinking. "

- William D. Dinges, Catholic University of America
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9781421401997 : american-catholics-in-the-protestant-imagination-carroll
Electronic book text
240 Pages
$56.00 USD

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The Penitente Brotherhood

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