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In Emptiness: Feeling Christian in America, John Corrigan delivers a sweeping study of the dialectic between emptiness and fullness in American Christianities. He draws from an impressive breadth of sources both over time and within different forms of American Christianity to explore how Christians have integrated the feelings of emptiness and, in turn fullness, as central to their identities, beliefs and practices. At the outset of the book Corrigan explains, “The practice of Christianity that was grounded in the feeling of emptiness, however, was not ambiguous. Christians determinedly chased the feeling of emptiness, valorized it as a longing for God, and performed devotions to prompt and deepen it.” He unpacks this argument in five chapters devoted to feelings, bodies, spaces, times, and believers.
When President Bill Clinton testified before a Grand Jury hearing on August 17, 1998 that he “did not have sexual intercourse with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” the American public learned at least two important lessons. First, the definition of sex was debatable and second, the authority to define sex as sexual intercourse was the crucial factor in the meaning of that pesky verb “is.” The questions of what is sex and, more importantly, who defines it have been studied and discussed thoroughly by scholars of U.S. history and culture. In American popular culture the social scientific findings published in the Kinsey Reports (1948, 1953) and William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson's Human Sexual Response (1966) provided information (or “scientific facts”) for lay people regarding the diversity and possibility of human sexual expression: what sex “is.” The growing awareness since the late 1950s that sex is more than one specific act has led many people to question whether sex as we learn it from our parents, teachers, clergy, friends, books, and science is “natural” (a matter of biological response) or socially constructed (a matter of cultural control). Opinions vary, tempers flare, and the mountain of sex advice manuals available at local bookstores attests to the U.S. public's insatiable appetite for knowledge about sex.