History Making History

The New Historicism in American Religious Thought

By William Dean

Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780887068935, 190 pages, October 1988
Hardcover : 9780887068928, 190 pages, November 1988

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Table of contents


1. The Challenge of the New Historicism
2. American Historicism and Religious Historicism
3. The Chicago School
4. The Hidden Empiricism
5. The Radical Historicists
6. Beyond Method: Toward a Concept of God



This book recognizes that the postmodern "new historicism" leads to a value-neutral relativism and leaves theology with an impossible choice. Dean argues that the postmodern challenge is incoherent and ineffective unless it is reinterpreted in terms of its classical American roots. Before offering a third option, Dean defends the neopragmatism of Richard Rorty, Richard Bernstein, Nelson Goodman, Hilary Putnam, Cornel West, and Jeffrey Stout; the deconstructivism of Jacques Derrida and Mark Taylor; and the recent theology of Gordon Kaufman. The third option, opening up a new possibility for American theology, is the radical empiricism of William James and John Dewey and the precedent of the "Chicago School. "

William Dean is Professor of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College and author of American Religious Empiricism, also published by SUNY Press.


"This is a wonderful book that I'm sorry I didn't write first, although I would not have been able to do as fine a job as Dean. It is immensely learned and follows up on the author's American Religious Empiricism. It is graciously written, and tells the story in a gripping way. " -- Robert Cummings Neville, Boston University

"This book is rich with insights and suggestive of new theological directions. " -- Nancy Frankenberry, Dartmouth College