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Experimental Theology in America: Madame Guyon, Fénelon, and Their Readers [Hardcover]

Patricia A. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 15, 2009 1602581975 978-1602581975
In this study of Madame Guyon and, her defender, Francois de Fénelon, the Archbishop of Cambray, Patricia Ward demonstrates how the ideas of these seventeenth-century Catholics were transmitted into an ongoing tradition of Protestant devotional literature--one that continues to influence American evangelicals and charismatic Christians today. Down a winding (and fascinating) historical path, Ward traces how the lives and writings of these two somewhat obscure Catholic believers in Quietism came to such prominence in American spirituality--offering, in part, a fascinating glance at the role of women in the history of devotional writing.

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Editorial Reviews


"... this book is ecumenical history at its best."
--Books and Culture (2010)

"Patricia Ward's book presents the definitive history of the Quietist legacy in America. It is well written and carefully researched, and it helps to explain the persistent experimental appeal of American revivalism."
--The Journal of Religion (2012, 92:3)

"Ward's careful handling of primary sources and her detailed reconstruction of Quietism's legacy within American Protestantism guarantee her book an authoritative place at the table in future discussions of American popular piety."
--Chad P. Stutz, University of Mobile, Religion and the Arts (2010, 14)

"Patricia A. Ward's Experimental Theology in America is a detailed and remarkably erudite study on the impact that Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon and François de Fénelon, the Archbishop of Gambray, had on Protestant devotional literature from the eighteenth century onward. Ward provides a comprehensive explanation as to why these two Catholic mystics have proven to be such an enduring force within Protestant, Evangelical, and charismatic circles in the United States, particularly among Methodists and Quakers."
--Christianity and Literature (2011, 60:4)

"This is an important book with an unusually convincing argument."

--Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

"An immensely successful portrait of the sincerity and vigor of American faith."

--Thomas Pavel, Gordon J. Laird Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

About the Author

Patricia A. Ward is Professor Emerita of French and Comparative Literature at Vanderbilt University where she served as Director of the W.T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French Studies and Chair of the Department of French and Italian. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602581975
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602581975
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,331,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Many Roads of the Quietist Tradition July 29, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In the early 1600's there arose in Italy and France a movement known as Quietism. The big three names in this movement were Miguel Molinos, Madame Guyon, and Francois Fenelon. At first this movement that focused on the prayer of interior silence was met with great enthusiasm; some historians estimate the Molinos had 20,000 followers in Italy. The fall was swift and devastating as the inquisition felt threatened by this movement. All three were at times imprisoned, and the teachings of Quietism were condemned as heretical.

One of the results of this story was that the teachings of Quietism were spread to Protestant nations and traditions. Because the Quietists were viewed as heretics, Protestants felt free to draw on their teachings without becoming too "Catholic" in the process.

Patricia Ward's book is a thorough history of how this movement from Catholic Europe to Protestant America took place. It is a complicated story with many twists and turns, many threads to keep track of. Ward manages to write this story in such a way that readers do not lose their place in this complex narrative of the transmission of ideas. I think this is remarkable. Looking back on it, I cannot remember ever feeling lost or wondering who a particular person was.

Ward begins by setting the stage in Europe and discussing the main ideas of the Quietists, particularly those of Madame Guyon. Ward also discusses how the Pietists in Protestant Germany absorbed some of these ideas. This takes about five chapters, which may seem like a lot; but it gives the reader a secure footing for the following chapters which discuss the dissemination of these ideas in America.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars history and more July 6, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have have skipped around and read less than half of the book so far, but already have my money's worth and enough information to write a positive review. Being much blessed with recent discovery of Fenelon and renewing acquaintance with Guyon, I'm thrilled to find historical information about the spreading of their message(s). From what I've read so far, the book is objective and informative, and the style is readable. You will learn some history. Thanks to author Patricia A. Ward for a well researched and well written book. You will want to have read something by Guyon and by Fenelon to give some context to this book. Many books are available and many are quick reads (but to take in the full benefits they require multiple slow readings).

Strongly recommended are "Meditations on the Heart of God" by Fenelon and "Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ" by Guyon (as well as most of the other writings by either of them). I think (IMHO) Guyon may have allowed herself to be treated a bit too much like a doormat. (I think Rudolf Vrba said something about it being wrong to be a party to an injustice as a perpetrator, passive observer, or victim.) But Guyon's passive acceptance of mistreatment (as of something coming from God), whether right or wrong, does not detract from gifts of love, peace, and prayer that her life and writings demonstrate. .

These two French quietists (Guyon and Fenelon) have had a significant (but little recognized today) role in American history (Famous people you are aware of were aware of them.), and also in the lives of many believers. They also may be instrumental in bringing about further progress toward the answer to the prayer of Jesus (in John 17) for unity among His followers.
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