Survival and continuity in literature by and about Old Order Hutterite, Mennonite, and Amish groups

Hamel, Elsie W. 
 Lehigh University ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2007. 3270662.

Abstract (summary)

For this creative nonfiction, I have researched the literature by and about three Old Order utopian religious sects (Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish) to determine why they have survived for four centuries while many other religious and secular utopian groups have failed in the 18th, 19 th and 20th centuries such as the Ephrata Cloister, Shakers, Amana Society, Mormons, Oneida Community, New Harmony, Fouriest Society and Rajneeshpuram. In my comparative study, factors such as the composition of the groups, conduct, work ethic, lifestyles and religious practices determined the differences facilitating the survival of the Old Orders. Survival of the three Old Orders depends upon rigid adherence to the biblical blueprint for living provided by the New Testament including strict discipline, obedience to their Order's rules and regulations, surrender of self-will, humility, nonresistance and separation from the outside world. Although some of the alternate utopian communities in my study survived for a length of time, particularly the religious groups, they ultimately failed for reasons such as lack of commitment, absence of a central belief buttressed by a uniform governance, self-centered charismatic leaders, inability to provide economic support, poor work ethic, disparity of common goals and a decline in community membership. Coupled with economic conditions in America, utopian theory provides a background to elucidate the reasons people were attracted to these communities.

I have also drawn parallels between the Old Order lifestyle and my own farm upbringing as a historical memoir for future generations of my family and thus it is a personal essay as well as a scholarly cultural history. I am modeling this methodology on two works: The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois and The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Construction of America by Sacvan Bercovitch. Du Bois was a rigorous academic sociologist who put aside many of the conventions of academic writing to produce a book about the African American experience. While it is not scholarly in the traditional sense, it made strong arguments that resonate in personal and cultural ways. (Du Bois) Bercovitch writes about his graduate research, progressing through a series of investigations where his Canadian and Jewish heritage influence his developing sense of American culture and a certain process of acculturation, particularly the Puritan vision of the New World. He wrestles with his immigrant naiveté and the peculiar insularity of his upbringing—a "scholar's journey into the American Self." (Bercovitch 1)

Indexing (details)

American literature
0318: Religion
0591: American literature
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Language, literature and linguistics; Amish; Bercovitch, Sacvan; Continuity; Du Bois, W. E. B.; Hutterite; Mennonite; Old Order; Religious sects; Survival; Utopian
Survival and continuity in literature by and about Old Order Hutterite, Mennonite, and Amish groups
Hamel, Elsie W.
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 68/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Lehigh University
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
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