Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Dr. Patrick Erben, a UWG associate professor of English, recently received the Dale Brown Book Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. The award honored Erben’s book, “A Harmony of the Spirits: Translation and the Language of Community in Early Pennsylvania.”
The award, given annually to an outstanding book in Anabaptist studies, is designed to stimulate research in Anabaptist and Pietist studies, honor scholars who have made original and significant contributions to the field, promote important books in Anabaptist and Pietist studies, and bring authors to campus to interact with students, faculty and friends of the Young Center.
“My award validates and honors years of painstaking research in archives, writing and revision,” said Erben. “It feels especially gratifying to receive a book prize from an institution--the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies--that is dedicated to the study of forgotten or frequently misunderstood immigrant groups in early America. Awards such as this one demonstrate the larger public relevance of careful scholarship in the humanities."
Erben’s book examines how early Pietists in Pennsylvania understood the role of language in spiritual life and in building new communities in the new world. He challenges the long-standing historical myth, first promulgated by Benjamin Frankin, that language diversity posed a threat to communal coherence.
“I hope that my book immerses readers in an early vision of America that not merely tolerated differences but actually celebrated the harmony of different voices and languages,” said Erben. “Take, for example, the stunning displays of multilingual communalism in the Moravian mission settlement of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: during special holidays, believers from all across the world as well as representatives of many Native American nations sang hymns, simultaneously, in up to 20 different languages. My book also encourages readers to think of linguistic multiplicity today not as an obstacle but rather as an asset for building successful communities.”
Erben also believes the book could benefit students who hold a special interest in historical development.
“My book underscores the importance of "foreign" language literacy for American students today, especially if they want to understand the historical development of their country and its past and current relationships to the world,” said Erben.