The Colleges welcomed Professor of History Susan Juster of the University of Michigan to discuss her research on religious violence between Catholics and Protestants in colonial America during her talk titled, “Planting the ‘Great Cross’: The Life, and Death, of Crosses in English America,” on March 23. A nationally recognized leader in her field, Juster is the latest historian to join HWS as part of The Huff Lecture Series, which is meant to provoke thought about the role between history and modern civic responsibility.
“Sue’s work sheds light on some of the deep assumptions of structures and behavior in American culture. It tells us about how the categories of identity can commingle and why people resort to doing terrible things to each other,” says Associate Professor of History Matthew Kadane. “Sue’s work makes us all better citizens in helping us to remember our buried past.”
For Juster, examining religious violence in early America coincides with understanding the iconography of the crucifix— a symbol with a more diverse past than Christianity alone. “When you think about the settling of the English colonies in North America – especially in New England – religion was such a crucial part and today, the symbolism of the cross is so synonymous with Christianity that it was surprising to realize that the presence of the cross was so much more complicated during the early colonial era,” says Rachel Glatman ’16, MAT ’17.
The forum was hosted in honor of the late Professor of History Maureen M. Flynn P’09, P’12, P’16, whose work on the historical role of blasphemy was influential to Juster. “Maureen Flynn was an extraordinary cultural historian. She excelled at taking a single ritual or single act and digging below the surface meaning of it and peeling away layers of meaning,” Juster says.
Juster is the author of several books on identity politics during the Revolutionary Era, most recently Sacred Violence in Early America, published by the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been described as “marvelously sophisticated” and “fresh” by some of the most acclaimed historians in the country. Juster is also a former Huntington Library Fellow, where she developed a friendship with Kadane.
Flynn is remembered as a passionate and revolutionary educator. Teaching at the Colleges for 12 years, she specialized in medieval, renaissance and reformation history, European popular culture and the history of medicine. She authored pivotal works such as Sacred Charity: Confraternities and Social Welfare in Spain (Cornell University Press, 1989) and “Blasphemy and the Play of Anger,” which appeared in Past and Present.