Edward Linenthal

Professor, Department of History

Adjunct Professor, American Studies

Department of History

  • etl@indiana.edu
  • (812) 855-5229
  • Weatherly Hall 136
    400 N Sunrise Dr
    Bloomington, IN 47402
  • Office Hours
    230-5 pm and by appt
    by appt
    by appt
    by appt
    by appt
IU, IU Bloomington

Full Biography

My graduate student years at UC Santa Barbara started me on an interesting professional path, one that I never envisioned while working on a dissertation examining the warrior as a religious figure in America. I went directly from Santa Barbara to the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, where I spent 25 years in the department of religious studies. I never cared much, however, for disciplinary boundaries, nor for the academic jargon that each discipline seems to prize too much. I was interested in investigating and writing for a larger public about the less examined, that which did not, at first glance, seem “religious.” So, for example, in 1987-88 I was a Research Fellow in the Arms Control and Defense Policy Program at MIT, where I did the research for my book Symbolic Defense: The Cultural Significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative, which examined how supporters and opponents of the so-called “Star Wars” missile defense system mobilized powerful American myths and symbols to make their case. At this same time, I also joined Ira Chernus in co-editing A Shuddering Dawn: Religious Studies and the Nuclear Age. Throughout the 1980s, I was also at work on a larger project, which eventually became my next book, Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, which examined processes of veneration, defilement, and redefinition at five sites: Lexington and Concord, the Alamo, Gettysburg, the Little Bighorn and Pearl Harbor. This project also began, happily, an ongoing relationship with the National Park Service. I worked for NPS at the 50th anniversary ceremonies at Pearl Harbor, and delivered the commemorative address at the memorial in 1994. I have also been a long-time consultant to NPS on interpretation of controversial historic sites, and from 2003-2005, I was a half-time Visiting Scholar in NPS’s Civic Engagement and Public History program. I served for almost a decade as a member of the federal advisory commission for the memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001. I co-direct a Gilder Lehrman Teacher Seminar each summer at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, "9/11 and American Memory," and I have served on an advisory group for the memorialization of those murdered on the island of Utøya, Norway, on July 22, 2011.

Honors and Awards

  • Visiting Fellow, Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Religion and Public Life, University of California, Santa Barbara (Spring 2004)
  • Visiting Scholar, Civic Engagement and Public History, National Park Service (2003-2005)
  • Leonard E. Greenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Trinity University (March 2002)
  • College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Achievement Award, Western Michigan University (2002)
  • Faculty, Salzburg Seminar (March 2001)
  • Edward M. Penson Endowed Chair, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (1999-2003)
  • Research Fellow, The Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin Madison (1998-1999)
  • John McN Rosebush University Professor, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (1989-1990)
  • Research Fellow, Defense and Arms Control Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1986-1987)
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (1984-1985)

Research Interests

  • Public history
  • War, genocide, and memory
  • American religious history
  • Holocaust studies


  • Ph.D. at University of California, Santa Barbara, 1979

Courses Taught

  • Memory of Catastrophe
  • The Senses in History
  • The Holocaust and American Memory
  • Nuclear Weapons in American Culture
  • American Sacred Space (and beyond)
  • World War II



  • Co-edited with Jonathan Hyman and Christiane Gruber, The Landscapes of 9/11: A Photographer's Journey. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.
  • The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Co-edited with Tom Engelhardt, History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. New York: Metropolitan Books, 1996. (Selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of the 10 most significant non-fiction books of 1996, and recipient of an “Award of Merit” from the American Association for State and Local History.)
  • Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum. 2nd edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.
  • Co-edited with David Chidester, American Sacred Space. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
  • Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields. 2nd edition. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1993.
  • Symbolic Defense: the Cultural Significance of the Strategic Defense Initiative.  Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1989.