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Modern Researches Antebellum Religion

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  • John Lardas Modern

John Lardas Modern has received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct research at the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate in Winterthur, Del.

Using the museum’s expansive library during spring 2010, Modern hopes to complete his book, tentatively titled Haunted Modernity; or, the Metaphysics of Secularism in Antebellum America.

Modern, assistant professor of religious studies at Franklin & Marshall College, will begin the fellowship in February 2010. The stipend for the fellowship is $20,000.

The book studies the relationship between emerging technologies and antebellum religious practices. The antebellum is considered to be the period of history following the War of 1812 to the Civil War in 1861.

“The book looks at how technologies were utilized by evangelicals, religious liberals and spiritualists as part of their practice and also explores the ways in which technologies became integral to their beliefs and self-understandings,” Modern said.

Modern expects to complete the book by next year.

Winterthur is the former home of Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969), an avid antiques collector and horticulturist. Resources for research from the 17th to the early 20th centuries include period trade catalogs, auction and exhibition catalogs, an extensive reference photograph collection of decorative arts, printed books and ephemera.

Museum collections include 85,000 artifacts and works of art made or used in America to 1860, with a strong emphasis on domestic life. The museum library holds more than 87,000 volumes and a half-million manuscripts and images.

Only three NEH fellowships are offered each year to conduct research at Winterthur. A furnished stone farmhouse on the Winterthur grounds serves as the fellows’ residence.

Haunted Modernity will be published by the University of Chicago Press. Modern is also writing a sequel, Melvillean Frequencies: Religion, Technology, and Whiteness in the Twentieth Century.