Edward T. Linenthal

Professor, Department of History, and editor, Journal of American History

Adjunct Professor, Department of Religious Studies


Ballantine Hall, Rm. 808
(812) 855-4051


Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1979

Research Interests

Professional Biography

My graduate student years at UC Santa Barbara started me on an interesting professional path, one that I never envisioned while working on a dissertation examining the warrior as a religious figure in America. I went directly from Santa Barbara to the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, where I spent 25 years in the department of religious studies. I never cared much, however, for disciplinary boundaries, nor for the academic jargon that each discipline seems to prize too much. I was interested in investigating and writing for a larger public about the less examined, that which did not, at first glance, seem “religious.” So, for example, in 1987-88 I was a Sloan Research Fellow in the Arms Control and Defense Policy Program at MIT, where I did the research for my book Symbolic Defense: the Cultural Signifigance of the Strategic Defense Initiative, which examined how supporters and opponents of the so-called “Star Wars” missile defense system mobilized powerful American myths and symbols to make their case. At this same time, I also joined Ira Chernus in co-editing A Shuddering Dawn: Religious Studies in hte Nuclear Age. Throughout the 1980s, I was also at work on a larger project, which eventually became my next book, Sacred Ground: Americans and their Battlefields, which examined processes of veneration, defilement, and redefinition at five sites: Lexington and Concord, the Alamo, Gettysburg, the Little Bighorn and Pearl Harbor. This project also began, happily, an ongoing relationship with the National Park Service. I worked for NPS at the 50th anniversary ceremonies at Pearl Harbor, and delivered the commemorative address at the memorial in 1994. I have also been a long-time consultant to NPS on interpretation of controversial historic sites, and from 2003-2005, I was a half-time Visiting Scholar in NPS’s Civic Engagement and Public History program.


Courses Recently Taught

Publication Highlights


The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer's Journey. Co-edited with Jonathan Hyman and Christiane Gruber, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013).

The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 1996). (Co-edited with Tom Engelhardt).

Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America's Holocaust Museum. (New York: Viking, 1995, Penguin Books 1997. (2nd edition, Columbia University Press, 2001)).

American Sacred Space. Co-edited with David Chidester,( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995).

Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. (2nd edition, 1993)).

Symbolic Defense: The Cultural Significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989).

A Shuddering Dawn: Religious Studies and the Nuclear Age, co-edited with Ira Chernus. (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989).



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