Evangelical Performance in Twenty-First-Century America
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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Introduction: Evangelical Performative Culture
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Mel Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster film The Passion of The Christ not only created a media storm, but the popularity of this film among Christians, and particularly evangelical Christians, took many people by surprise. In the months before and immediately following its premiere, articles about the film dominated the mainstream press.1 This discourse engaged many important...
1/ Embodied Belief, Affective Piety, and Evangelical Dramaturgy
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The performative genres I study in this book both reflect and engender religious belief. I argue that they accomplish this, in great measure, through what I call evangelical dramaturgy, a system of performative tactics designed to manipulate the physical, rhythmic encounter between user and medium. As Simon Shepherd contends, because performances are...
2/ Energetic Enactments of Jesus
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As with all dramaturgical systems, evangelical dramaturgy’s tactics promote certain ways of seeing or experiencing the world. In the previous chapter, I argued that evangelical dramaturgy shapes the rhythmic points of contact between medium and user in order to create resonant and commodifiable experiences. Those experiences orient the believer-user’s religious self-discovery through certain conceptualizations of representation and religious ...
3/ “Behold the Lamb” : Passion Playing, Intermediality, and the Gibson Affect
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Claire Sponsler’s work on Passion playing reveals the vexed history of this performance tradition in the United States. Publicly marketed, commercial Passion plays staged in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often faced resistance. For example, Sponsler describes how an 1879 performance of Salmi Morse’s...
4/ The “Great Passion Play” and Evangelical Blends
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The “Great Passion Play” is staged annually from May through October, five nights a week, in the Ozark Mountains of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. As the program explains, the production is modeled “in form and function” after the famous Passion play in Oberammergau, Germany, “to involve the local community to glorify God.”1 The two-hour play is performed on an open-air three-story-tall permanent set that is the size of two football fields.2 This set...
5/ The Creation Museum as Engaged Orthodoxy
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Articles in popular media outlets have not only raised awareness about the $27 million Creation Museum, but such press coverage has also imbued the venue with important symbolic value. In a sense, the museum functions as a kind of shorthand—a codeword for conservative Christianity or an emblem of political divisions within U.S. culture and politics generally.1 Like the ...
6/ Megachurches: Cultivating Affective Atmosphere
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In this final chapter I analyze the evangelical megachurch as a unique, highly visible, and incredibly persuasive performative genre. More specifically, I will demonstrate how each megachurch uses the strategies of evangelical dramaturgy to craft a synaesthetic space and worship experience that will reflect its specific “brand.” In his study of the evolutionary origins of religious...
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Throughout this project I attempted to understand U.S. evangelicalism by physically engaging its dramaturgy. I tried to open myself up to unfamiliar—sometimes uncomfortable—affective scripts in order to experience the felt solutions they are designed to offer and, thus, in Timothy Beal’s words, to find my way “into the other’s story.”1 None of the individual performative ...
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Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 18 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013