by Quincy Newell
Summer has come to the University of Wyoming, even though it doesn’t look like it. (Seriously: the National Weather Service is forecasting snow for later this week.) So in the grand blog tradition of summer list-making, I have two questions for you readers out there:
1. Reading: what books and articles related to religion in the American West are you looking forward to reading this summer? What would you recommend to other folks interested in the topic? Because it’s not fair to ask questions without answering them, here are my responses (in reverse order): I’m a perennial fan of Laurie Maffly-Kipp’s essay “Eastward Ho!” (in Retelling U.S. Religious History, edited by Thomas A. Tweed). I also really like Steven W. Hackel’s Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis, which examines the encounter between California Indians and Spanish Franciscans at Mission San Carlos Borromeo in California. But this summer I am gearing up for a class on Mormonism (to be taught next spring) and a project on Mormonism (already well underway), so I’m going to be reading mostly about – you guessed it – Mormonism. I’d love to hear your recommendations on that topic as well, but I don’t want this post to get too distracted. So stick to the “Religion in the American West” recommendations for now. If I have time, I’m also going to check out a couple titles I ran across in our library recently: Catholicism in the American West: A Rosary of Hidden Voices, edited by Roberto R. Treviño and Richard V. Francaviglia (University of Texas at Arlington, 2007); and Blake Allmendinger’s Imagining the African American West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005).
2. Traveling: Summer is the season of travel for many of us. What sites do you think are most important to, most illustrative of, or just downright coolest when it comes to, religion in the American West? I have often lamented the fact that I became an Americanist – it’s tough to justify research trips to exotic locales (though Hawai’i might count), and the chances of leading study abroad trips or getting to go to conferences in cool places are pretty slim. But with Americans tightening their belts and staycations becoming standard fare, suddenly the American West is looking a lot better! I also have an ulterior motive here: I’ve pondered the possibility of a summer course incorporating a travel component, but I’ve not yet figured out a coherent set of sites to visit. So what would you suggest? For me, Devil’s Tower would certainly be on the list, and if my travel budget were unlimited, so would Jesus Mountain. We can’t forget Salt Lake City, of course, and if there are any LDS temples opening in the west, a temple tour would be de rigeur. (The LDS Church lists temple openings on their website – pretty handy.) Then there are the Spanish missions in California and the Southwest. I know the most about San Francisco de Asís (a.k.a. Dolores), so I would be tempted by that one – but the archaeology is probably better at Santa Barbara, and I could probably be persuaded to forgo California altogether in favor of Texas or another Southwestern state. But this is just me dreaming. Where would you recommend, and why?
Let’s hear it, people! Leave your top picks, wish lists, and idle speculations in the comments!