Matthew Hedstrom

Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies

Gibson Hall, S-013

Education

  • BA, Haverford College
  • MA, University of Texas at Austin
  • PhD in American Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Research Interests

I am a historian of the United States specializing in religion and culture in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My central questions probe the intersections of American modernity and Protestant and post-Protestant religious modernity in the United States. I also have longstanding and ongoing interests in the history of the book, especially as it applies to American religious history. Race, religion and psychology, the history of spirituality, mass culture, religious liberalism, cosmopolitanism and internationalism all figure into my research and teaching.

I am now researching and writing a book called The Religion of Humanity: Faith, Politics, and the United Nations. This book explores the deep religious history of the United Nations—the religion of the UN as much as religion in and about the UN. The project reaches back into the nineteenth century and forward to the late twentieth, but is centrally concerned with the UN and its American religious contexts, conflicts, and constituencies in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The long arc of the plot follows the intersecting histories of two great liberal dreams of the modern age—the religious vision of a “religion of humanity” and the political vision of world government—as they converged and diverged across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Read more here.

Teaching

  • Historiography Seminar in American Religion
  • American Spirituality
  • “Spiritual But Not Religious”: Spirituality in America
  • Theories and Methods of American Studies
  • Introduction to American Studies
  • Varieties of Religious Experience
  • Early American Religion
  • Christian America?: Religious Diversity and National Identity
  • Visions of Apocalypse in American Culture
  • American Studies Distinguished Majors Seminar

Selected Publications 

My first book, The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century, employs novel sources in book history to tell the surprising story of religious liberalism’s cultural ascendancy in the twentieth century. The religious middlebrow culture of mid-century, I argue, brought psychological, mystical, and cosmopolitan forms of spirituality to broad swaths of the American middle class. This book was awarded the 2013 Brewer Prize from the American Society for Church History.

“Secularization.” In America in the World, 1776 to the Present: A Supplement to the Dictionary of American History. 2 vols. Ed. Edward J. Blum. Farmington Hills, MI: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2016.

 “The Rise of the ‘Nones.’” In Faith in the Age of Obama. Ed. Darren Dochuk and Matt Sutton. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

“The Rise of Spiritual Cosmopolitanism: Liberalism and Cultural Politics in the Twentieth Century.” In Faithful Republic: Religion and Politics in Modern America. Ed. Andrew Preston, Bruce J. Schulman, and Julian E. Zelizer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

“The Commodification of William James: The Book Business and the Rise of Liberal Spirituality in the Twentieth-Century United States.” In Religion and the Marketplace in the United States. Ed. Jan Stieverman, Philip Goff, and Detlef Junker. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.