The University of Massachusetts Press has enhanced its list of Shaker titles with a thoughtful new book about how the members of this communal religious sect, known for their commitment to living the simple life, perceived beauty in the world around them. Drawing upon the Shakers’ own descriptions of the temporal and spiritual worlds they inhabited, Joseph Manca, a professor of art history at Rice University, explores in five chapters what the believers said was beautiful about the human body, the landscape and the natural world, the material culture that furnished their lives, the worldly art and architecture they encountered outside their villages, and their inspired visions of the heavenly sphere. Manca documents numerous observations in which the Shakers expressed their admiration for a world of sensory experiences—ranging from the revelations of their inspired songs and drawings to...

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