History 240

History and Principles of Quakerism*

This snippet of a 1697 English Broadside invites you to join Professor Emma Lapsansky in exploring some of the 'strange and wonderful' stories of Quakers across time and space...

History and Principles of Quakerism

History 240 Emma Lapsansky

Spring 1999 Office: Special Collections, Magill Library
Office hours: Tues 3-4 and by appt.

This course will use a series of short readings, several group projects, and several individual projects, to explore the history and ideas of "the peculiar people" called Quakers.

The course, which seeks to introduce students to some of the relationships between Quakerism and the societies in which it exists, will be focused around three general themes: Friends belief systems, the images which those beliefs generated and supported, both in the minds of Friends and in the imagination of those who witnessed Quakers' actions, and finally, the playing out of some of these themes in the life of one exemplary Friend, Rufus M. Jones. The format and sequence of the course will be designed to explore the three themes mentioned above as if they could be treated sequentially. In fact, these themes will interweave and reverberate one with another. Therefore, the theme of "belief systems" which will dominate the early weeks of the course, will inform our reading of fictionalized Quakerism in the second section of the course, and will shape our discussions of the life of Rufus Jones which will dominate the third section. We will end with a reexamination of the questions of belief, doctrine and community discipline.

The goals of the course are two-fold. First, we will seek to answer questions students bring about who Quakers are/were (and we will hope to develop new questions); second, we will be guided by the professor's notion of what is "essential" information if one is to understand Quakerism.


"Everything you always wanted to know about Quakerism.

In these first several weeks, we will focus on what you know, what you thought you knew, what you want to know, and what you hadn't yet thought of in conceptualizing what Quakerism is.

Students will be asked to articulate to the class whatever ideas/questions led to choosing this course over the myriad other curricular choices available, with the goal of clarifying how knowledge and preconceptions of Quakers/Quakerism arise.

Out of a series of short readings (an average of about 60 pages per week) class discussions will examine what Friends have believed, in various times and places, about what is important in religious faith and practice. The structure of Quaker organization, the peculiarities of Quaker language, the organizational structures that have supported and grown out of Friends' beliefs, and the importance of insulated communities for protecting the specialness of Quaker ways will be explored through readings in volumes such as:

Margery Post Abbott, A Certain Kind of Perfection.

Friends World Committee for Consultation, Quakers Around the World.

Douglas V. Steere, Introduction from Quaker Spirituality

Harvey Gillman, A Light That is Shining

Adrian Cairns, Of One Heart, Diverse Mind

Patricia Loring, Spiritual Discernment

Warren Sylvester Smith and Mae Smith Bixby, One Explorer's Glossary of Quaker Terms.

Heron, Alistair, Now We are Quakers

Vining, Elizabeth , Friend of Life

**N. B. On February 11, the class will meet in the Special Collections department of the library for a discussion of Friends organizations.

** on February 23, former American Friends Service Committee director (and former Haverford College administrator) Steve Cary will lead us in a discussion of the Society of Friends' participation in non-governmental political and social service organizations (NGOs). This will be a good chance for those of you who have an interest in working with social service organizations to raise your questions about how policy and day-to-day questions are handled within such groups.


Images of Quaker life

The second section of the semester will be built around clusters of discussions of fictionalized versions of Quaker life. The "differentness" with which Friends have sought to distinguish themselves and their communities has given rise to imagery that is both positive and negative. Novels by and about Friends have allowed writers to paint imaginative pictures --flattering or unflattering--that reflect a great deal about how people have perceived the "peculiar people."

In this section, students will be asked to read one novel, and will work with others who have read the same novel to create a group presentation that addresses some of the issues of belief and practice as they have been laid out in part I of the course. The final product is an individual paper that explores this issues in some depth. In the first class meetings we will work out the presentation schedule.

Readings will include one novel and whatever collateral readings (e.g., book reviews, bios of authors, literary criticism, other interesting contextualizing materials) are appropriate to give a rich understanding of the novel's place in history and literature.

Margaret Lacey, Silent Friends.

Chuck Fager, Unfriendly Persuasion

Jessamyn West, Friendly Persuasion.

Irene Allen, Quaker Testimony.

Daisy Newman, I Take Thee Serenity.

**N.B. On March 23, we will meet in Special Collections, for a discussion of Quaker "images"

III. The Friendly Life, The Individual: Rufus M. Jones

In this final segment of the course, students will work together in small groups on ONE aspect of ways that the abstract principles have played out in the life of renowned Quaker thinker, mystic and peace activist Rufus M. Jones, a Haverford graduate (1885) who then went on to teach at the college, and to provide leadership to a number of Friends concerns and organizations.

The product of this research should be a 12-20 page paper which will grow out of the group research but will be completed by individual students.


Assignments and Grading:

There will, therefore, be five required assignments: 1) an oral presentation (sometime in March) in which you and your teammate lead the discussion of the novel you have read, and 2) an individual paper, of about 10-15 pages, which grows out of your presentation on the novel, due by 4:00 pm March 19. Then 3) the 12-20 page paper on Rufus Jones, due May 3 at 9 am; and finally 4) a short final exam. 5) Finally, students will be asked to attend a Quaker first-day meeting for worship, at a time and place of your choice, and to report on that meeting in a one-page reflective essay, due in class April 6.

Grading will be allocated as follows:

Class presentation 15%

Class participation 10%

Papers (each) 25%

Report on Q. meeting 5%

Final exam 20%


The following readings will be on reserve, and may be helpful as you work on each of the projects of the course:

Margaret Hope Bacon,. Let this life Speak: the Legacy of Henry Joel Cadbury

Howard Brinton Friends for 300 Years

Wilmer Cooper, A Living Faith

Jan Hoffma Clearness Committees and their Use...

Barry Morley Beyond Consensus

Thomas Hamm The Transformation of American Quakerism

H. Larry Ingle Quakers in Conflict.

Rufus M. Jones The Trail of Life in College

Rufus M. Jones The Trail of Life:The Middle Years

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