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Religion and the Culture of Print in Modern America

Edited by Charles L. Cohen and Paul S. Boyer

Publication Year: 2008

Mingling God and Mammon, piety and polemics, and prescriptions for this world and the next, modern Americans have created a culture of print that is vibrantly religious. From America’s beginnings, the printed word has played a central role in articulating, propagating, defending, critiquing, and sometimes attacking religious belief. In the last two centuries the United States has become both the leading producer and consumer of print and one of the most identifiably religious nations on earth. Print in every form has helped religious groups come to grips with modernity as they construct their identities. In turn, publishers have profited by swelling their lists with spiritual advice books and scriptures formatted so as to attract every conceivable niche market.
            Religion and the Culture of Print in Modern America explores how a variety of print media—religious tracts, newsletters, cartoons, pamphlets, self-help books, mass-market paperbacks, and editions of the Bible from the King James Version to contemporary “Bible-zines”—have shaped and been shaped by experiences of faith since the Civil War. Edited by Charles L. Cohen and Paul S. Boyer, whose comprehensive historical essays provide a broad overview to the topic, this book is the first on the history of religious print culture in modern America and a well-timed entry into the increasingly prominent contemporary debate over the role of religion in American public life.
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for Regional Special Interests, selected by the Public Library Association

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvii

The history of print culture in the United States has garnered growing scholarly attention over the past several decades, its coming of age signaled by the American Antiquarian Society’s ongoing multivolume...

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pp. xix-xx

This book owes its inception to Paul Boyer, who, during his years as Chair of the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America, deftly identified important opportunities and topics for our consideration. Founded in 1992 as a joint program of the...

1Religion and Print Culture in American History

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pp. 1-2

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Religion, Print Culture, and the Bible before 1876

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pp. 3-13

The most vivid popular images of religious culture in the United States tend toward the hortatory (the firebrand preacher calling sinners to repent) and the architectural (a simple whitewashed church, more often than not, though the neo-Gothic splendor of the National Cathedral or the glassy futurism of the Crystal Cathedral have...

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From Tracts to Mass-Market Paperbacks Spreading the Word via the Printed Page in America from the Early National Era to the Present

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pp. 14-38

I take my text from John 21:23, the last verse of the last of the four Gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that circulated among the early Christians: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every...

2Printing Religious Fictions and Facts, 1800–1920

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pp. 39-40

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Quakers in American Print Culture, 1800–1950

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pp. 41-71

One of the more memorable scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) occurs during Eliza Harris’s flight from slavery, after she arrives at the safe domestic haven of Rachel and Simeon Halliday, members of a devout Quaker household who have...

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The Mythic Mission Lands Medical Missionary Literature, American Children,and Cultural Identity

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pp. 72-104

In the middle of the nineteenth century the pathbreaking missionary work of Peter Parker, M.D. (1804–88), in China and Clara A. Swain, M.D. (1834–1910), in India ushered in an age of medical missions that made the missionary physician “the representative...

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Joseph B. Keeler, Print Culture,and the Modernization of Mormonism, 1885–1918

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pp. 105-128

The years flanking the start of the twentieth century comprised a time of transition for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Seventy years old in 1900, the Church and the larger Mormon society in which it resided still displayed much of their traditional...

3Print Culture and Religious Group Identity

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pp. 129-130

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The Select Few: The Megiddo Message and the Building of a Community

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pp. 131-155

Decades before Internet chatrooms and listservs, a small religious sect created an international community of loyal adherents through the effective use of publications sent through the mail. The Megiddo Church, a semi-communitarian1 sect founded in Oregon...

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“Is This We Have among Us Here a Jew?” The Hillel Review and Jewish Identity at the University of Wisconsin, 1925–31

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pp. 156-172

In March 1925 a new student-produced periodical appeared at the University of Wisconsin, designed to “awaken a greater interest, a more active participation, a more sincere and determined effort on the part of the student community to further all things Jewish.”...

4The Print Culture of Fundamentalism

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pp. 173-174

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Fundamentalist Cartoons,Modernist Pamphlets, and the Religious Image of Science in the Scopes Era

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pp. 175-198

The trial of John Scopes for teaching evolution in Dayton, Tennessee, has attracted much attention from historians in the eight decades since Judge John Raulston gaveled the proceedings to a close at midday on Tuesday, 21 July 1925. Edward J. Larson’s Pulitzer...

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Reports from the Front Lines of Fundamentalism: William Bell Riley’s The Pilot and Its Correspondents, 1920–47

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pp. 199-214

From the very first English settlement, American Protestants have demonstrated great faith in the written word to convert sinners, inspire spiritual growth, induce moral conduct, create community, and transform society. The result of this confidence in the Word...

5Popular Print Culture and Consumerism, 1920–50

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pp. 215-216

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The Religious Book Club: Print Culture, Consumerism, and the Spiritual Life of American Protestants between the Wars

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pp. 217-242

“Matters of the spirit are common subjects of conversation,” asserted Publishers’ Weekly in 1924. “People may be heard discussing them in crowded elevators, in restaurants, in subway trains or between the acts.”1 The sentiment was widely held. Most cultural...

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Psychology and Mysticismin 1940s Religion: Reading the Readers of Fosdick, Liebman, and Merton

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pp. 243-268

“I can’t help but feel that we are on the brink of a great spiritual renaissance,” wrote reader Marian Grassley1 to Harry Emerson Fosdick in 1956. Grassley had recently come across Fosdick’s 1932 best seller...

6Religion and Print Culture in Contemporary America

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pp. 269-270

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Healing Words: Narratives of Spiritual Healing and Kathryn Kuhlman’s Uses of Print Culture, 1947–76

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pp. 271-297

Kathryn Kuhlman (1907–76) was an obscure itinerant evangelist with a questionable past until one fateful day in 1947 when the forty-year-old redhead stood before a small audience in Franklin, Pennsylvania. A woman interrupted Kuhlman’s sermon to announce that a...

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New Age Feminism?: Reading the Woman’s “New Age” Nonfiction Best Seller in the United States

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pp. 298-325

About a decade ago, my mother began a “Women Who Run with the Wolves” group. She promptly bought a drum and jokingly howled at me while playing it, but I knew that this groundswell of female bonding, brought on by the huge success of Clarissa Pinkola...

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The Bible-zine Revolve and the Evolution of the Culturally Relevant Bible in America

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pp. 326-348

“The world’s largest publisher of religious material is selling the sizzle along with the solemn in a line of Bible-zines.”1 So began a Reuters news service story on Thomas Nelson Publishers and a new trend of selling the Bible packaged as a magazine. This hybrid form, half magazine/ half Bible, was not completely new to American...


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pp. 349-351


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pp. 353-369

E-ISBN-13: 9780299225735
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299225742

Publication Year: 2008