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“Claudia Stokes presents a more textured account and provocatively mixed assessment of the sentimental tradition of American women’s letters than we have yet encountered.”—Tracy Fessenden, Arizona State University
“This is an excellent book—well researched, innovative, and beautifully written. Claudia Stokes shows a mastery of both literary sentimentalism and religious history, which she uses to bring out compelling new insights about what it meant for women to draw on sentimental codes as they forged new ways of participating in religious culture and public discussions.”—Nancy Bentley, University of Pennsylvania
Displays of devout religious faith are very much in evidence in nineteenth-century sentimental novels such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Little Women, but the precise theological nature of this piety has been little examined. In the first dedicated study of the religious contents of sentimental literature, Claudia Stokes counters the long-standing characterization of sentimental piety as blandly nondescript and demonstrates that these works were in fact groundbreaking, assertive, and highly specific in their theological recommendations and endorsements. The Altar at Home explores the many religious contexts and contents of sentimental literature of the American nineteenth century, from the growth of Methodism in the Second Great Awakening and popular millennialism to the developing theologies of Mormonism and Christian Science.