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(p.83) 3 Space
John Corrigan
University of Chicago Press

American Christians feel space. They feel it with their souls. They feel its emptiness and they represent that feeling in many ways. They seek empty space and at the same time fear it. Americans invented the Great American Desert of the trans-Mississippi in the early nineteenth century, extending a Puritan sense of wilderness and emptiness to the westward movement across the North American continent. Some American Christian groups, in attempting to define themselves via negativa, retreat from social spaces in which they exist in close proximity to other religious groups into space they conceptualize as empty. Other groups exhibit a horror vacui and fill their space with layers of religious emblems. Other groups seek the ambiguous emptiness of a liminal social and geographical setting. Some empty space is gendered female.

Keywords:   space, emptiness, Puritans, Great American Desert, horror vacui

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