Society of Southeastern Americanists


Pop Puritans: Representations of Puritanism in Contemporary Popular Culture


Panel organizer:  Anne G. Myles, University of Northern Iowa


This is a proposal for a roundtable on the representation of New England Puritanism in contemporary (late 20th-21st century) popular culture, and on the issues that arise with the way Puritanism is constructed within popular literature, the media, and broader social and ideological discourse.  There is a plethora of Puritan representations that circulate in the cultural sphere, from the thoughtful analyses of writers like Sarah Vowell and Tony Horwitz to more questionable representations too numerous to mention.  For those of us who teach in the area, a challenge we face is that the image of Puritanism has already been constructed for our students through popular images; as scholars and citizens, we recognize the problematic ways Puritanism circulates as an implicitly popularized referent in politics and social discourse.  

 In this roundtable, I wish to invite students of Puritanism and culture from all career stages to share their thoughts both on particular texts or instances of “pop Puritanism,” and on some of the broader questions of representation or the cultural work of the figure of Puritanism within more or less contemporary America.  I invite proposals in which presenters describe a particular text or context they would discuss, and suggest as well as some broader points of discussion related to that text and to the panel’s issues they would plan to open up to the audience.   I will correspond with the selected presenters prior to SEA to collectively develop a list of works to share with the audience – or probably two lists, a “Hall of Fame” and “Hall of Shame” of pop Puritanism.  (Yes, I would like this roundtable to have a fun and playful dimension and be diverting as well as thought-provoking for the audience – I imagine some enjoyably groan-inducing film clips etc. being shared.)  This is definitely a roundtable that would be designed to invite and provide time for discussion with the audience (and should readily elicit it!). 


Send 250-word abstracts to Anne Myles at by Friday, September 7, 2012.

Full Version