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History 4972: Faith Healers, Prosperity Preachers, and Televangelists in American Religion: Syllabus

Course Syllabus for HIST 4972

History 4972                                                                                        Dr. John Wigger
Spring 2012                                                                                         312 Read Hall
Tuesday 6:00-8:20                                                                               Office: 882-6019
Location: 304 Read Hall                                                                       Cell: 573-239-3809
Office Hours: Tues. & Thur. 9:00-10:50 a.m. and by appointment                   

Research Seminar: Faith Healers, Prosperity Preachers, and Televangelists in American Religion


Course Description

The course will focus on big tent revivalists, healing evangelists, prosperity preachers, and televangelists, as the title suggests. We will begin the course reading Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry (1927), Matthew Sutton’s book about Aimee Semple McPherson (one of the most famous and colorful evangelists of the 1920s), and Edward Larson’s Summer for the Gods. Students will be asked to write a 500-word review of each book that concentrates on critical evaluation, not just summing up what the book says. Like a good movie review, a book review should not just say whether a book is good or bad, but why.

After that, students will spend the rest of the semester developing a project on the person or group of their choice, as long as it’s not Jim Bakker and his PTL television ministry. At least this course shouldn’t be boring. The final version of a paper should be about 20-25 pages in length (12 point font, double spaced), including either footnotes or endnotes in Chicago style.

Research seminars can be demanding, but they should also be enjoyable. Here is your chance to develop your own project around your own ideas.


Grades will be based on the first draft of the paper (100 points), the final paper (100 points), three book reviews (10 points each) and class attendance and participation (30 points). Late book reviews will lose 2 points for each day late; draft and final papers will lose 5 points for each day late. Final grades will incorporate plus/minus grading. The grading scale will be as follows: A: 93-100 percent, A-: 90-92, B+: 87-89, B: 83-86, B-: 80-82, C+: 77-79, C: 73-76, C-: 70-72, D+: 67-69, D: 63-66, D-: 60-62, F: 0-59.

Academic Honesty

Academic honesty is fundamental to the activities and principles of a university. All members of the academic community must be confident that each person’s work has been responsibly and honorably acquired, developed, and presented. Any effort to gain an advantage not given to all students is dishonest whether or not the effort is successful. The academic community regards academic dishonesty as an extremely serious matter, with serious consequences that range from probation to expulsion. When in doubt about plagiarism, paraphrasing, quoting, or collaboration, consult the course instructor.


If you anticipate barriers related to the format or requirements of this course, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need to make arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please let me know as soon as possible.

If disability related accommodations are necessary (for example, a note taker, extended time on exams, captioning), please register with the Office of Disability Services (, S5 Memorial Union, 573- 882-4696, and then notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations.  For other MU resources for students with disabilities, click on "Disability Resources" on the MU homepage.

Use of computers during class

You are welcome to bring computers and similar devices to class to take notes. But these devices may not be used in class to check email, browse the web, play games and the like. Students who do so may be asked to leave the classroom and reported to the Office of Student Conduct. The teaching assistants will monitor this from the back of the room.

Academic Inquiry, Course Discussion and Privacy

University of Missouri System Executive Order No. 38 lays out principles regarding the sanctity of classroom discussions at the university. The policy is described fully in Section 200.015 of the Collected Rules and Regulations. In this class, students may make audio or video recordings of course activity unless specifically prohibited by the faculty member. However, the redistribution of audio or video recordings of statements or comments from the course to individuals who are not students in the course is prohibited without the express permission of the faculty member and of any students who are recorded.  Students found to have violated this policy are subject to discipline in accordance with provisions of Section 200.020 of the Collected Rules and Regulations of the University of Missouri pertaining to student conduct matters.


 (Subject to revision)

Jan. 17             Introduction

Jan. 24             Discussion of the first half of Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry, plus a portion of the film version of the book.

Jan. 31             Discussion of the second half of Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry.

                        Elmer Gantry reviews due.

Feb. 7              Discussion of the first half of Sutton, Aimee Semple McPherson, plus a portion of the film, The Apostle.

Feb. 14            Discussion of the second half of Sutton, Aimee Semple McPherson.

                        Sutton reviews due.

Feb. 21            Discussion of first half of Larson, Summer for the Gods, plus a portion of the film, Inherit the Wind.

Feb. 28            Discussion of the second half of Larson, Summer for the Gods.

                        Larson reviews due.

Mar. 6              Presentation of topics

Mar. 13            Library resource session

Mar. 20            Presentations of sources and outlines

Mar. 27            Spring break

April 3              Progress updates

Apr. 10            Progress updates

Apr. 17            Discussion of paper drafts

Apr. 24            Discussion of paper drafts

May 1              Final papers due

Required books:

Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry (Signet, 2007).

Matthew Sutton, Amiee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (Harvard, 2009).

Edward Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (Basic, 2006).

Note: Any edition of these books will do.