Event—Scholarly Seminars

Christopher Cantwell, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


“No Place is So Dear to My Childhood”: Evangelicalism, Nostalgia, and the History of an American Hymn, Christopher D. Cantwell, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

This paper tracks the surprising history of a love ballad about a dead woman that went on to become a celebrated gospel hymn about the rural roots of America’ greatness. Titled “The Church in the Wildwood” but sometimes called “The Little Brown Church in the Vale,” the song’s evolution speaks to the ways in which nostalgia became central to the imagination of those American Protestants who would come to call themselves “evangelicals.” Alterations to the song’s words ultimately reveal the impulse within American evangelicalism to halt the nation’s changes, rooting America’s glory in some bygone era that never existed.

Respondent: Johari Jabir, University of Illinois-Chicago