Ryan Paranyi's MA Thesis Defence: "Methodism and the Christian Gentleman in Mid-Victorian Rural Ontario" | College of Arts

Ryan Paranyi's MA Thesis Defence: "Methodism and the Christian Gentleman in Mid-Victorian Rural Ontario"

Date and Time


MacKinnon Ext. 2020


This thesis will argue that the lived religion of young Methodist men in rural Ontario from 1866 to 1874 contributed to the creation of a particular ideal of rural masculinity known as the “Christian Gentleman.” The existing historical literature on this topic has focused on the urban-centred middle-class Christianity of the 1880s and 1890s and has tended to ignore alternative visions of Christian manliness that arose in rural communities much earlier. This thesis will make use of the farm diaries of three young Methodist men in mid-Victorian Ontario: Samuel Johnson (b. 1848) of Ontario County, John Harrington Ferguson (b. 1851) of Peel County, and Courtland Olds (b. 1844) of Norfolk County. They recorded, often in meticulous detail, the daily occurrences of farm and rural life and tracked their extensive participation in church life as well as their individual sense of spiritual and moral progress. Informed by the doctrines of the Methodist Holiness Movement, the ideal of the Christian Gentleman embodied the virtues of temperance, reason, kindness, and a sense of self-improvement. Their diaries demonstrate that the Christian Gentleman was shaped within the domestic confines of home and family, where he was to serve as the spiritual patriarch of a godly household. Participation in church activities and the mass evangelistic services of the 1860s and 1870s further instilled and provided a space for these young men to hone their skills as Christian leaders and effective evangelists for their Methodist faith. Their role as Christian Gentlemen was fully realized through the transferal of these values to the public sphere, where their skills and leadership were to be used to advance the interests of Methodism through church building and improvement projects and to advocate for the spiritual and moral improvement of society through temperance activism.


Advisor: Catharine Wilson Chair: Susan Nance

Committee Member: Alan Gordon

External Examiner: Femi Kolapo