This course name and description ONLY applies to academic year 2021-2022

AMST 13184-1: Sanctity & Society

Instructor: Kathleen Cummings

The heroes of any particular society reveal a great deal about the values, identities, and priorities of its members. This course views American society through the lens of canonization, the process by which the Roman Catholic Church recognizes people who have lived lives of “heroic virtue.” Presently there are twelve American Catholics officially recognized as saints, and dozens of others at various points on the road to canonization. All of these saints became popular in certain contexts. In this course we will not only explore these people as historical figures, but also examine who promoted them, when, and why, focusing on what the canonization of each has revealed about the shifting relationship between Catholicism and American culture in distinct historical periods. Ranging from Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Mohawk convert, to Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan firefighter killed at Ground Zero, our cast of characters includes saints and sinners, martyrs and missionaries, patriot priests and unruly women. We will view these American saints through a number of lenses, including immigration, race, gender, sexuality, commercialization, and nationalism. We will begin by examining how the stories and reputations of American “holy heroes”, like those of their secular counterparts, change over time. We will then explore the history and politics of canonization, broadly speaking. We will then return to an American context, and examine in detail a case study of one prospective U.S. saint, Emil Kaupan. These first three units lay the groundwork to the final unit, in which you undertake historical research on a man or woman from the United States who is on the path to canonization. The paper will provide information on the life of and devotion to the candidate, and make a case that he or she is the saint America needs today. As a University Seminar, this course requires intensive writing and rewriting. I am available to you at each stage and I encourage you to use other resources available to you at the University Writing Center. We will also incorporate peer review into the writing process.