Claudia Stokes, associate professor and chair of the English department, has published numerous works about American literature, particularly that of the 19th century. This year, she added one more to the list.
Her latest book, â€œThe Altar at Home: Sentimental Literature and Nineteenth-Century American Religion,â€ focuses on the theological content of Sentimental literature in the 19th century.
Stokesâ€™s book challenges the common idea that Sentimental literature promotes conservative and conventional religious beliefs. It is an attempt to analyze, in a very detailed way, the specific theological contents of Sentimental literature.
â€œIt has been assumed for about 150 years that it promotes fairly conventional, fairly conservative, fairly traditional religious beliefs,â€ Stokes said. â€œI argue that many of the religious beliefs promoted in Sentimental literature are very innovative, and in many ways at odds with our beliefs about this literary movement.â€
Stokes conducted extensive research about the topic, describing the process as â€œhighly detailed.â€
â€œI visited archives I didnâ€™t expect to go to. I went to the West Point library. I studied sermons, I read private correspondence, I read peopleâ€™s mail, even 19th-century Sunday school lesson plans. It was a long process, but it was very satisfying,â€ Stokes said.
The idea for the book came from one of Stokesâ€™s classes here at Trinity.
â€œThe book emerged from a class I teach here at Trinityâ€”a seminar on Sentimental writers,â€ Stokes said. â€œWhat interested me was the presumption that scholars often make that Christianity, and religion in general, is homogeneous and static. Scholars often overlook the great diversity of beliefs that are grouped under the term Christianity.â€
Stokes has also authored â€œWriters in Retrospect: The Rise of American Literary History, 1875-1910â€ and co-edited â€œAmerican Literary Studies: A Methodological Readerâ€ with Michael A. Elliot. In addition to these books, Stokes has published several essays.
Stokes plans to conduct future research about the meaning of charactersâ€™ physical disabilities in Sentimental literature.