The Chautauqua Moment

Protestants, Progressives, and the Culture of Modern Liberalism, 1874-1920

Andrew Chamberlin Rieser

Columbia University Press

The Chautauqua Moment

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Pub Date: November 2003

ISBN: 9780231126427

416 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: November 2003

ISBN: 9780231501132

416 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£47.00

The Chautauqua Moment

Protestants, Progressives, and the Culture of Modern Liberalism, 1874-1920

Andrew Chamberlin Rieser

Columbia University Press

This book traces the rise and decline of what Theodore Roosevelt once called the "most American thing in America." The Chautauqua movement began in 1874 on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in western New York. More than a college or a summer resort or a religious assembly, it was a composite of all of these—completely derivative yet brilliantly innovative. For five decades, Chautauqua dominated adult education and reached millions with its summer assemblies, reading clubs, and traveling circuits.

Scholars have long struggled to make sense of Chautauqua's pervasive yet disorganized presence in American life. In this critical study, Andrew Rieser weaves the threads of Chautauqua into a single story and places it at the vital center of fin de siècle cultural and political history. Famous for its commitment to democracy, women's rights, and social justice, Chautauqua was nonetheless blind to issues of class and race. How could something that trumpeted democracy be so undemocratic in practice? The answer, Rieser argues, lies in the historical experience of the white, Protestant middle classes, who struggled to reconcile their parochial interests with radically new ideas about social progress and the state. The Chautauqua Moment brings color to a colorless demographic and spins a fascinating tale of modern liberalism's ambivalent but enduring cultural legacy.
Andrew C. Rieser breaks new ground in his sophisticated and exhaustive treatment of Chautauqua. Rieser's breadth of topics is impressive. Robert D. Johnson, The Journal of American History
As the first critical analysis of this influential social movement, this book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the process of creation of white, middle-class identity and the assertion of the hegemony by that class. The Annals of Iowa
The Chautauqua Moment is a rich, multi-faceted exploration of one of the... Most influential and elusive movements... Students of state history will learn much from The Chautauqua Moment. Thomas N. Baker, New York History
Destined to be a seminal text not only on the Chautauqua moment but also on... the progressive-era white middle class. Amy Kittelstrom, Reviews in American History
Rieser winsomely and insightfully presents and analyzes the flaws, the merits, and the contradictions... of the Chautauqua movement. Paul Hillmer, H-Net Reviews
Introduction: Chautauqua's Liberal Creed
An American Forum: Methodist Camp Meetings and the Rise of Social Christianity
Canopy of Cultures: Democracy Under the Big Tent of Prosperity
The Never-Ending Vacation: Boosters, Tourists, and the Fantasyscape of Chautauqua
Inventing the White Public: Webs of Region, Race, and Nationalism in the Chautauqua Movement
From Parlor to Politics: Chautauqua and the Institutionalization of Middle-Class Womanhood
Useful Knowledge and Its Critics: The Messiness of Popular Education in the 1890s
Success Through Failure: Chautauqua in the Progressive Era

About the Author

Andrew C. Rieser is a past fellow of the Pew Program in religion and American history at Yale University and has taught at several universities in New York and the Midwest.