Sarah Rivett

Sarah Rivett
Sarah Rivett
Assistant Professor

Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2005.  Sarah Rivett specializes in early American and transatlantic literature and culture.  Her first book, The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England (2011)has been awarded the Brewer Prize of the American Society of Church History.  The Science of the Soul highlights the unity of science and religion in transatlantic networks of knowledge formation by arguing that empiricism and natural philosophy transformed the scope of Puritan religious activity in colonial New England from the 1630s to the Great Awakening of the 1740s.  Rivett’s current book, The Savage Sounds of Indigenous Words: Religion, Enlightenment, and American Literary History, explores the impact of indigenous languages on European ideas about the representational power of words, from seventeenth century Jesuit and Protestant missions to the imperial wars of the eighteenth century to notions of the metaphysical and imaginative capacity of Indian words as the basis for a new national literary history in the 1820s.  Additionally, Rivett is currently preparing a co-edited volume of essays on Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas.  Her articles have appeared in Early American Literature, William and Mary Quarterly, and Early American Studies.  Some of her course titles include: Religion in the Early Modern Atlantic World (grad), American Enlightenment (grad), The Supernatural in American Literature, American Literature to 1865, Religion and Poetry, Walt Whitman’s America, and Morality in America.

Selected Publications


The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England (Chapel Hill: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, The University of North Carolina Press, 2011)

Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas, co-edited with Stephanie Kirk. (forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press)


“The Algonquian Word and the Spirit of Divine Truth: John Eliot’s Indian Library and the Atlantic Quest for a Universal Language,” in Early American Mediascapes, edited by Matt Cohen and Jeffrey Glover (Lincoln: University of Nebraska) forthcoming.

“Early American Religion in a Postsecular Age,” PMLA, 128.4 (forthcoming in October, 2013)

“The Spectral Indian Presence in Early American Literature,” American Literary History, 25.3 (2013) 625 – 637.

“Religious Exceptionalism and American Literary History: The Puritan Origins of the American Self in 2012,” Early American Literature 47.2 (2012) 391 – 410.  

 “Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas,” co-authored with Stephanie Kirk, Early American Literature 45.1 (2010) 61 – 91.

 “Community Structure, 1492 – 1676,” in Religion in American History, edited by John Corrigan and Amanda Porterfield (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010) 49 - 69.

“Our Salem, Our Selves,” Special Forum on the Salem Witchcraft Trials, William and Mary Quarterly 65.3 (2008) 495 – 503.

“Tokenography: Narration and the Science of Dying in Puritan Deathbed Testimonies” Early American Literature 42.3 (2007) 471 – 494.

“Empirical Desire: Conversion, Ethnography, and the New Science of the Praying Indian” Early American Studies 4.1 (2006) 16 – 45.

“ ‘Keepers of the Covenant’: Submissive Captives and Maternal Redeemers in Puritan New England,” in Feminist Interventions in Early American Studies, edited by Mary C. Carruth (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama, 2006).