Religious Studies Department

Dr. M. Jane Harris

Dr. Jane HarrisProfessor of Religion 

(501) 450-1392 

Ph.D., Religious Studies-American Religion, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
M.A., Religious Studies, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
M.Div., Biblical Studies, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
B.A., Religion, Meredith College
Additional Graduate study in Religion and Literature, University of Virginia


Teaching and Research Interests: 

  • History of Religion in America
  • Religion and Culture
  • Women and Religion
  • Religion in the American South
  • History of Christianity in China
  • History of the American Missionary Movement
  • Oral History of Southern Religious Traditions


Personal Statement: 

I fell in love with the study of Religion as a freshman in college, and that passion for the field of Religion has continued until the present day.  After spending two years living and teaching in Taiwan, I realized that if I hoped to understand another religious tradition or another culture, I would have to know more about the culture and faith that had influenced my own life.  Thus began my interest in the American religious studies.  Within that broad field that examines and analyzes American religious history and contemporary American religious life, I have focused upon scholarship that recovers the history of American women, particularly in the missionary movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With a student, I started an oral history project in the summer of 2004, and we have since interviewed two dozen retired Arkansas Methodist clergy couples.  Those interviews have yielded some exciting possibilities for further research and writing, particularly about how Methodist pastor’s wives handled the transformations going on in women’s lives in the late twentieth century.  I find the study of religion in the American south especially fascinating, and I read and write (and occasionally teach) about that subject.  Another area of interest in my teaching is world religions, with a particular love for the study of Chinese religions, which began as a young teacher in Kaohsiung, Taiwan many years ago.

I consider myself a fellow learner with my students.  My advantage is that I have many more years of pursuing knowledge about religious studies and have gained a deeper understanding of American religion.  I hope that my pursuit of knowledge and my rich life experiences have produced some measure of wisdom to share with my students.  My style of teaching includes lecture, mixed with discussion.  I tend to be Socratic in my approach to class discussions, paying attention to where students’ interests and insights lead the discussion.  I also use small group assignments to encourage the participation of all students in discussion.  I tend to conclude a class by summarizing the salient points of the discussion or by posing a question that focuses our reading for the next class and that anticipates where the next class will begin.

I still have much to learn, and my students become my teachers as we read books together, view films, and discuss important ideas.   My responsibility as a teacher is to help my students think more critically and deeply. Writing is the most important tool to that end, so my students write a lot, and I grade a lot of papers.  In the process, we all learn from each other.


Projects and Publications: 

Books and Edited Collections:

  • “Bridgman, Eliza Jane Gillet”; “Frame, Alice Browne”; “Miner, Sarah Luella”; “Pennington, Edith Mae Patterson”; “Smith, Willie Mae Ford”; “Speer, Margaret Bailey” in The Westminster Handbook to Women in American Religious History, Susan Hill Lindley and Eleanor J. Stebner, eds., 24, 81-82, 150, 169, 205, 209.  Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.
  • “Holiness and Pentecostal Traditions: Making the Spirit Count” in Religion and Public Life in the Southern Crossroads Region: Showdown States, 79-102, William Lindsey and Mark Silk, eds., Religion by Region Series, AltaMira Press, 2004.

Articles and Dictionary Entries: 

  • “America’s Evangelical Women: More than Wives and Mothers—Reformers, Ministers, Leaders” in Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America,  Vol. I, Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether, eds., 447-457.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.