Many Methodist circuit riders published their autobiographies in the mid-nineteenth century as an attempt to recreate the “zeal” of the earlier decades of American Methodism—and to lament the comfortable mood they perceived within their newly respectable middle-class denomination. This article demonstrates how and why “the circuit rider”—as a mythic figure or literary trope—was created and maintained, especially through autobiographies. It argues that they were not disinterested chronicles but arguments about the true character of the denomination. Most broadly, it uses memory studies to study the role of narrative in producing a politics of nostalgia.

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