Schulman & Dumenil Comparison/Contrast of Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Schulman illustrates this by reference to Bob Dylan's lyrics, whose images (such as Isis) evoke the spiritual quests of the New Age mysticism and whose outlaw heroes voice an angry suspicion again established institutional authority (Schulman, 147). The same hostility to mainstream values was repeated in iconoclastic directors such as Cassavetes and Scorsese. One sees as well that the 1970s critiques of religion were not based on evolutionary science as in Dumenil's portrait. They were grounded in psychology. Nor does Schulman describe a mass secularization to the extent it happened in the 1920s. Rather, there seemed to be a return to and reinvigoration of religion in the 1970s.

The 1970s had another element not present in the 1920s. The New Age movement presented a new image of maleness. It sought to explore masculinity perhaps in a way that the 1920s explored femininity. Men's groups, forums, and retreats spread. Robert Bly denounced inherited notions of masculinity, calling for men's liberation. Schulman calls this the "mythopoetic men's movement -- the motley assemblage of drum-beating retreats, New Age-style group therapy, men's health magazines and cosmetics, poetry readings, and celebrations of primal masculinity" (Schulman, 183). It is linked directly with the New Age religion, inventing new ceremonies that did not appear in Dumenil's description of the 20s. The closest parallel would be the African-American storefront churches with their revolutionary blues and gospel music. Yet the New Age focused on spirituality by rejecting previous models of masculinity based on macho or over-sensitive notions.

Dumenil's balanced portrait of 1920s religion pays similar homage to the complexity of religious experience. The modernists fought the fundamentalists for their unscientific interpretations, while the latter fought back against the perceived faithless. The vitality of these religious conflicts was similar. Both took place in cultures where traditional religion was generally deemed in malaise and decline. The Pentecostals and New Agers took over where the Fundamentalists and Modernists left off, although in the 1970s the stress was on a much more personalized and psychologized form of faith. The 70s struggle was less moral than the 20s struggle against Victorian repression. Both the New Age and the Pentecostals shared the belief that people must directly experience the divine. It was about privatized feeling. Both viewed themselves as dissenting outsiders, although the struggle was approached different, whether against the unredeemed or the unevolved in American society (Schulman, 100). The syntheses of both authors show how contested religion was in both decades, how polarized American culture became although historically situated differently, and how religion was one arena in which the mainstream was criticized. In the end, Dumenil does a better job of linking religion to the current of racial and ethnic diversity that was determinative for religious expression in the face of American nativism. In Schulman, it is unclear how the discussion of assimilation relates to the new individualist religious emphasis of the 1970s, although his emphasis on diversity could be used to explain the rise and proliferation of the New Age religions.


Dumenil, Lynn. The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s. New York: Hill…

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