Mather Redux: New Perspectives on Cotton Mather


Schedule of Events

Friday, October 18, 2013

Congregational Library: Exhibit of Matheriana and Second Churchiana
  9:30 Conviviality: Coffee and Pastries
  10:00 "Will the real Cotton Mather stand up, please?"
      Reiner Smolinski (Georgia State University)
  10:45 Break
  11:00 Roundtable: Why Mather Matters
      Margaret Bendroth (Moderator, Congregational Library)
      Helen Gelinas (Eberhard-Karls Universität, Tübingen, Germany)
  "Cotton Mather's Rehabilitation of Eve and Her 'Daughters' "
      Rick Kennedy (Point Loma Nazarene University)
  "Cotton Mather's Declaration of Independence"
      Harry Clark Maddux (Appalachian State University)
  " 'Without Squeaking above, or Grumbling below': Issues in Singing Psalms at the Second Church, aka. the real Old North"
  12:30   Lunch Break (lunch is not provided)
  1:30 "Between Restoration and Revolution: The Boston of Cotton Mather's Youth"
      Francis J. Bremer (Millersville University)
  2:15 "Of Priests and Periwigs: Cotton Mather and Manly Fashion."
      Robert Brown (James Madison University)
  3:00 "Cotton Mather as Historian"
      Kenneth Minkema (Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale Divinity School)
  3:45 Wrap up and "Goodbye"

Saturday, October 19, 2013

  10:00 Walking tour of the North End with the North End Historical Society:
      Mather's old haunts on Clark Square, Hanover Street, New North Church, including discussion of the following: "From which 'Old North Church' were the Lanterns hung to start Paul Revere's Ride to Lexington?"
  11:30 Copp's Hill Burial Ground:
      Laying a wreath/flowers at Mather Family Tomb, "Mather Witticisms": anecdotes, readings from his letters, diaries, poetry
  12:30 Conclusion


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Prof. Reiner Smolinski
Reiner Smolinski   Reiner Smolinski is Professor of early American literature and culture at Georgia State University (Atlanta). He was a DAAD Visiting Professor at the University of Mainz and the University of Potsdam/Berlin, in Germany. His publications include books and essays on puritan millennialism, Salem witchcraft, and early Enlightenment science and biblical hermeneutics. As general editor of Cotton Mather's forthcoming 10-volume Biblia Americana (1693-1728), he is guiding an international team of volume editors to publish colonial America's first commentary on the Bible.

Will the real Cotton Mather stand up, please?

Cotton Mather was one of the premier intellectuals of his generation, yet his reputation as America's "national gargoyle" is still far too ingrained in our popular imagination. Ironically, his character was not sullied by his contemporaries but by Old- and New-Light theologians in the nineteenth century who employed his publications as a weapon to silence opponents. Recent scholarship on his unpublished holograph manuscript Biblia Americana, a 5,000 page-commentary, reveals a totally different Mather: a scholar-theologian who brought to bear on the interpretation of the Bible the cutting-edge scientific, philosophical, and hermeneutic innovations of his age nearly a century before his American peers would follow suit.

Dr. Helen Gelinas
Helen Gelinas   Helen K. Gelinas is a Ph.D. candidate at Eberhard-Karls University, Tübingen, Germany, working on her dissertation, "The Spirit and the Bride: Cotton Mather and the Role of Women in the Church". She holds an M.A. in American Studies and has taught English and American Literature at the Leibniz Kolleg, Tübingen, and American Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Tübingen. She has published on Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards, and worked as an assistant editor of vol. 5 (Proverbs-Isaiah) of Cotton Mather's Biblia Americana. She currently serves as Coordinator for the Middleboro Transcriptions Project at the Congregational Library, Boston.

Cotton Mather's Rehabilitation of Eve and Her 'Daughters'

Cotton Mather has been portrayed in history as a consummate misogynist. However, through his intriguing commentaries on Eve in the Biblia Americana, an entirely different picture of his views on women emerges. "Cotton Mather's Rehabilitation of Eve and Her 'Daughters' " explains the theological basis for Mather's insistence on female intellectual capabilities and their value to the church.

Prof. Rick Kennedy
Rick Kennedy   Rick Kennedy is professor of history at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. His biography Cotton Mather: First American Evangelical will be published by Eerdmans in 2014. He is co-editor of the John-Acts volume of the Biblia Americana, and author also of books and articles on the Brattle brothers and the history of colonial Harvard. He is a member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and last summer was a Marc Friedlaender Fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Cotton Mather's Declaration of Independence

David Levin, a literature professor at Stanford, made the case several decades ago that Cotton Mather's role in Boston's Glorious Revolution was comparable to Thomas Jefferson and his pattern of thought similar to the Declaration of Independence. Rick Kennedy will revisit this notion showing where it is true, but also showing where it is incomplete.

Dr. Harry Clark Maddux
Clark Maddux   Harry Clark Maddux is the Director of Service-Learning at Appalachian State University. He earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue University in 2001, and has served as teaching faculty at Tennessee State University and, most recently, Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, where he was an associate professor of English. The volume editor of Ezra-Psalms in the Biblia Americana series, Clark has been awarded research fellowships from the Beinecke Library, the Huntington Library, the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbuettel, Germany, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

'Without Squeaking above, or Grumbling below:' Issues in Singing the Psalms at the Second Church.

This presentation explores the history of Psalm singing among Puritans in New England. Attitudes toward congregational singing from the Bay Psalm Book in 1640 to the revised New England Psalter in 1698 to Mather's own Psalterium Americanum will be examined. Program participants will also have the opportunity to hear some of the Psalms as they would have been sung in Mather's congregation and to become acquainted with how church members untrained in music would have learned to sing. Finally, we will see how Mather's translation in Psalterium Americanum offered Puritans manifold ways to practice singing as a devotional exercise.

Prof. Francis Bremer
Frank Bremer   Francis J. Bremer is Professor of History Emeritus at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. He also taught as a Visiting Professor at NYU and was a fellow at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England and Trinity College in Ireland. He is the author of numerous books and articles on seventeenth-century puritanism in the Atlantic world, most recently First Founders: Puritans and Puritanism in the Atlantic World (2012) and Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds (2012).

Between Restoration and Revolution: The Boston of Cotton Mather's Youth

Cotton Mather was born into a New England world that was changing dramatically from that of the first founders. The Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 not only ended hopes for a puritan transformation of England but also subjected the colonies to greater royal scrutiny and supervision. In those changed circumstances the society became more pluralistic, with the puritan culture being challenged by new non-puritan immigrants primarily seeking economic opportunities and by a growth in sects such as the Baptists and the Quakers. This paper will suggest the ways in which these developments framed the challenges that would engage Mather throughout his career.

Prof. Robert Brown
Robert Brown  

Professor Brown's research has been focused on transitions toward intellectual modernity in early America. His book,Jonathan Edwards and the Bible, examined Edwards's appropriation of critical interpretive methods and their implications for understanding the Bible as a form of divine revelation. He is currently editing a volume of the Biblia Americana, which is the first American work to integrate critical interpretation with biblical studies. He has also written about religion and literacy, as well as the history of theological method in America in the 19th and 20th centuries. Prof. Brown teaches courses on Religion in America, including New Religious Movements, African American religion, and evangelicalism. He also teaches courses on the history of Christianity, such as global Christianity and the history of Christian thought.



Of Priests and Periwigs: Cotton Mather and Manly Fashion

The gender-defining power of appearance was a controversial and long-debated topic in early New England. One of the longest entries in Mather's Biblia engages this topic through the lens of men's hair: its length, hygiene, and presentation. Mather took a decidedly progressive view on the matter, and in doing so adopted a very modern way of understanding the Bible.

Dr. Kenneth Minkema
Ken Minkema  

Dr. Kenneth P. Minkema is the Executive Editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards and of the Jonathan Edwards Center & Online Archive at Yale University. From 2004 through 2009, he served as the Executive Secretary of the American Society of Church History. Besides publishing numerous articles on Jonathan Edwards and topics in early American religious history in professional journals including The Journal of American History, The William and Mary Quarterly, The New England Quarterly, Church History and The Massachusetts Historical Review, he has edited volume 14 in the Edwards Works, Sermons and Discourses: 1723-1729, and co-edited A Jonathan Edwards Reader; The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader; Jonathan Edwards at 300: Essays on the Tercentennial of His Birth; and Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God": A Casebook. He has also co-edited The Sermon Notebook of Samuel Parris, 1689-1694, dealing with the Salem Witchcraft crisis. Finally, Dr. Minkema is currently part of a team that is preparing Cotton Mather's Biblia Americana for publication.



Reforming Harvard: Cotton Mather's Efforts to Improve Education at Cambridge

In 1724, Harvard President John Leverett died. Cotton Mather expected to be named his successor, but regardless, he hoped he would have the opportunity to "do many Things for the Good of the Colledge, more quietly and more hopefully than formerly." He drew up an "Article" for the tutors, committing a version to his Diary, and another to a previously unpublished piece entitled, "Important points, relating to the Education at Harvard-Colledge; needful to be Enquired into, praepared and humbly offered, by Some who have newly pass'd thro' the first four years of their being there." This manuscript, with twelve questions, sets out reforms for learning and especially piety among the students for the ministry, encapsulating Mather’s views on education and training, as set forth in his Manuductio ad Ministerium, which may have had its origin in this aborted reform effort for his alma mater.