The recent issue of Fides et Historia has a nice review of The Way of Improvement Leads Home by Will Katerberg of Calvin College (who also happens to be the editor of the journal). Check out Will’s new book: Future West: Utopia and Apocalypse in Frontier Science Fiction (Kansas, 2008).
The review is not yet on-line, but I offer a couple of snippets here:
John Fea’s monograph is good scholarship, the kind of empirical, fine-grained analysis that the history profession teaches and values. But it is more than that…Fea does not just use Fithian’s diaries to learn about the man and his time, especially tensions between his provincial loyalties to his home in rural New Jersey and his ambition to discover, enjoy, and make his way in a wider cosmopolitan world. Fea also is drawn to Fithian’s example and wants us to learn from Fithian’s experiences…
(Fea) has shown the rootedness of Fithian’s Enlightenment (any enlightenment, I think, not just Fithian’s). These roots are local, personal, and emotional, and enlightenment is all the richer for them, especially when cosmopolitans are aware of their own provincialism and finitude.