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ND professor named finalist for book award

Van Oosterhout, K. Aaron | Wednesday, January 28, 2004

After six years of research, George Marsden received an unexpected recognition for his most recent book, “Jonathan Edwards: A Life.”Though unaware of how he was nominated, the Notre Dame history professor is one of the five finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award for 2003. This award has been given annually since 1981 to those authors that write, “the finest books published in English,” as the committee’s Web site describes the award.His book, a biography of the 18th century Christian Reformed preacher, will go before a review committee in March, and the awards ceremony will be broadcast on C-SPAN on March 4. Marsden is competing against four other authors in the biography/autobiography division of the national prize, and, if selected, will join past winners, who include Frank McCourt for “Angela’s Ashes” and Sylvia Nasar for “A Beautiful Mind.”Marsden wrote the biography in lieu of 27 volumes of Edwards’s writings published recently by Yale University Divinity School. Marsden said his writings provided a new angle from which to examine the preacher’s life as an academic biography of Edwards has not been written since 1940.Marsden said this recent addition to his library reflects his deep-rooted interest in the Protestant tradition. “Being in the [Christian] Reformed tradition myself, I was trying to understand what it would be like to be Reformed in that time,” Marsden said.This is not the first time Marsden has received recognition for his work. In 2000, Christianity Today added Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture to its list of the top 100 Books of the Century, sandwiched between Sigmund Freud’s tome “Civilization and its Discontents” and Aldous Huxley’s dystopian groundbreaker “Brave New World.”Marsden, who joined Notre Dame 12 years ago, specializes in American Protestant history, and has taught at many other Protestant-affiliated universities and colleges. He said Notre Dame attracted him because it was an excellent academic institution and retained its religious background and is interested in seeing if and how Notre Dame will continue to maintain its Catholic tradition.