Cover: The Peculiar Life of Sundays, from Harvard University PressCover: The Peculiar Life of Sundays in HARDCOVER

The Peculiar Life of Sundays

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Product Details


$29.50 • £23.95 • €26.50

ISBN 9780674031685

Publication Date: 12/15/2008


320 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches


This wide-ranging study of the most singular day of the week--as it has played out over the centuries from antiquity to the present--will delight and inform readers. I found it beguiling in every way. Miller writes beautifully, drawing on a wealth of material, shaping his ideas and arguments with nothing short of amazing grace.—Jay Parini, Middlebury College

A fascinating cultural history of Sunday that draws on some of our best-known writers and public figures. Fluently written, vastly enjoyable, both instructive and diverting.—David Mikics, University of Houston

[A] lively history of a day that has exercised a peculiar hold on countless human beings for the past 2,000 years.—Jay Tolson, Wall Street Journal

In his book The Peculiar Life of Sundays, Stephen Miller sweeps through countries, epochs and theological debates to give a sense of the dialogue between Christianity and the wider culture over the proper place of Sunday in people’s lives.—Brian Welter, Vancouver Sun

A revealing work of cultural history.—Bryce Christensen, Booklist

Miller’s cultural history of Sunday observance in the Christian West becomes relevant reading because this day is now being subsumed by commercialization and secularization...The Peculiar Life of Sundays is a stained-glass window of Sunday lives...The Peculiar Life of Sundays succeeds in designing a complex and fascinating stained-glass window with each Sunday life sensitively executed to avoid unfair judgments.—Christopher Benson, Weekly Standard

Miller is a nimble and original cultural historian.—Jeremy Lewis, Literary Review

[A] polished and, at times, wistful meditation on the transformation of Sunday from late antiquity to the present.—Fiona Capp, The Age

A lively, absorbing history of Sunday observance in the Christian West.—Susan Schwartz, Montreal Gazette

Here is a cultural history of Sunday observance in the Christian West, drawn from ancient and contemporary sources, explored through the psychological dialectic of gladness and gloom. Miller acquaints the reader with the Sunday lives of observant Christians (Augustine, George Herbert, Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Edwards), nonobservant Christians (John Ruskin, Robert Lowell), and lapsed Christians (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Wallace Stevens), narrating a transformation of Sunday that began when Constantine’s decree eclipsed pagan veneration for the sun god with Christian veneration for the Son of God. His focus on the Sabbatarian debates in America and Britain attests to the human need for a day of rest and reflection. Post-secular anxiety can be heard in this story, as residual blue laws fade to black--giving way to idle amusements and banal commerce. Now that Sundays are free of burdensome forms, they seem burdened by formlessness, which may be why Pope Benedict XVI exhorts, "Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul."The Atlantic

The Peculiar Life of Sundays is consistently informative and diverting--as suitable for the melancholy Sunday mornings of the Velvet Underground as the lazy afternoons of the Small Faces.—Toby Lichtig, Times Literary Supplement

The idea behind this book is so interesting that I am surprised it has not been tackled before. In an erudite but humorous fashion Miller charts the history of Sunday worship: when it began and how it has been observed, in literature as well as life.—Charlie Hegarty, Catholic Herald

This engaging book provides a sweeping overview of Sunday observance in the Christian West from antiquity to the present.—G. T. Buggeln, Choice

Sunday, precisely because it was set apart for something other than work, became the stage for the complex moral and cultural debates that Miller’s book describes.—Samuel Graber, Christianity and Literature

Miller shows us the range of different approaches of literary minds to Sundays, from the beginning of Christianity to the present day, and his book clearly shows that Sundays have taken on a peculiar life of their own.—Arthur C. Sippo, New Oxford Review

Awards & Accolades

  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2009
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