Marty Center Religion and Culture Web Forum: "'A place to go to connect with yourself': A Historical Perspective on Journaling"
by Catherine A. Brekus (University of Chicago)
The Martin Marty Center's Religion and Culture Web Forum is an online forum for thought-provoking discussion on the relationship of scholarship in religion to culture and public life. This month, Professor Catherine Brekus of the University of Chicago Divinity School compares the modern-day practice of "journaling," promoted by cultural figures such as Oprah Winfrey, with early American devotional writing. "Why did so many early American Christians feel compelled to keep diaries, and why has there been such a surge of interest in 'journaling' in our own time? How do today’s 'spiritual' journals either resemble or differ from early American diaries? In the first part of this essay, I show that early American Protestants kept diaries in order to 'crucify' themselves and worship a transcendent God. In the second part, I argue that today, Americans write spiritual journals for a very different set of reasons: to create an authentic sense of selfhood, to come to a deeper appreciation of their own worth, and to find God within them."
Each month the Marty Center, the research arm of the University of Chicago Divinity School, invites a scholar of religion to comment on his or her own research in a way that "opens out" to themes, problems, and events in world cultures and contemporary life. Scholars from diverse fields of study are invited to offer responses to these commentaries on the forum's discussion board, where the public is also encouraged to post thoughts and reactions to commentaries and invited responses.
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