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Robert Orsi
Robert Orsi


NYS Writers Institute, November 14, 2013
7:30 p.m. Keynote Lecture | Page Hall, 135 Western Ave., Downtown Campus



Robert Orsi, author, historian, and the “reigning scholar of American Catholicism” (Publishers Weekly), will present a lecture, “The Gods of Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York, 1800 to 1950,” on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. in Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue,  on the University at Albany downtown campus [NOTE location change]. The event is free and open to the public, and is cosponsored by UAlbany’s Department of History, the NYS Archives Partnership Trust, and the New York State Writers Institute in conjunction with the Researching New York 2013 Conference.


Robert Orsi
, “the reigning scholar of American Catholicism” (Publishers Weekly), will deliver the keynote lecture of the Researching New York 2013 Conference. Please note that the location of Orsi’s talk has been relocated to Page Hall on the University at Albany’s downtown campus. The title of Orsi’s talk is “The Gods of Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York, 1800 to 1950.”

New York City is generally thought of as the very epitome of American modernity and so it was— but it was also a rich landscape of religious practice, innovation, and conflict. Virtually every major development in American religious history had, if not its origins in New York, then its most public and extravagant expression. Religion did not just happen in New York City; it happened through the city, in the media of its streets, shadows, and stoops, and in exchanges among people of all the world’s religions. New York has never been a secular city— or perhaps the religious history of New York demands a rethinking of what ‘secular’ means. This lecture invites a rethinking of American urbanism as a profoundly religious reality.

The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950Orsi is the author of the landmark study, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950 (1985, 25th Anniversary edition 2010). The USA Today reviewer said, “Orsi has fashioned an impressive fusion of the inner histories of immigrant social and religious life.”  The American Historical Review called it, “A richly tapestried portrait-narrative...,” and said, “Orsi is to be commended for a truly significant contribution to the annals of American social history.” The book received the Jesuit National Book Award and the Shea Prize of the American Catholic Historical Association.

Orsi’s other books include Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them (2005), winner of the Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion, and Thank You, Saint Jude: Women’s Devotion to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes (1998), winner of the Merle Curti Award in American Social History from the Organization of American Historians. He also served as editor of Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape (1999), and of Divine Mirrors: The Virgin Mary in the Visual Arts (2001). Orsi is currently editing The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies of Cambridge University Press. He is also completing a cultural history of 20th-century Catholic childhoods in the United States, to be published by Harvard University Press.

The Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University, Orsi previously taught at the Divinity School of Harvard University, Indiana University, and Fordham University. He is also the recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright, and NEH fellowships.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.