front cover of Good Words
Good Words
Evangelicalism and the Victorian Novel
Mark Knight
The Ohio State University Press, 2019
This new study explores how evangelicalism played a vital role in the development of the Victorian novel. In contrast to those who see the evangelical movement as trivial to our histories of the novel and part of the losing side in religion’s battle with secularity, Good Words: Evangelicalism and the Victorian Novel examines fiction by major writers of the nineteenth century—Thackeray, Dickens, Wood, MacDonald, Collins, and Butler—and reveals the extent to which the novel was shaped by evangelical thought and practice.
Rather than getting lost in historical and theological rabbit holes, Good Words invites readers to think about why evangelicalism still matters for the stories we tell about fiction in the Victorian period. The result has major implications for our understanding of the Victorian novel, our conception of the relationship between nineteenth-century literature and religion, the way in which we think about evangelical culture in the modern world, and our ideas about the practices and protocols of scholarly reading.

front cover of Missionary Cosmopolitanism in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
Missionary Cosmopolitanism in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
Winter Jade Werner
The Ohio State University Press, 2020
Missionary Cosmopolitanism in Nineteenth-Century British Literature explores the notion that missionaries, often perceived as only evangelically motivated in the British imperial project, were also spurred on by cosmopolitan ideals. Winter Jade Werner makes this surprising connection in order to write against standard understandings of missionary work as well as typical understandings of cosmopolitanism as a deeply secular project.
Missionary Cosmopolitanism identifies the nineteenth-century novel as thematically and formally attuned to the tension between missionaries’ cosmopolitan values and the moral impoverishment of their imperialist and expansionist practices. Werner’s chapters interact with canonical works such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, along with lesser-known works by Robert Southey and Sydney Owenson. Ultimately, Missionary Cosmopolitanism demonstrates that nineteenth-century literature both illustrated and helped define missionary discourses regarding cosmopolitan ideas, showing how global evangelicalism continues to tap into the “new cosmopolitanisms” of today.

front cover of Sensational Devotion
Sensational Devotion
Evangelical Performance in Twenty-First-Century America
Jill Stevenson
University of Michigan Press, 2015
The various media genres involving evangelical performance may seem tangential but are in fact significant and influential cultural products employing sophisticated tactics to reach large audiences of firm believers, extreme skeptics, and those in between. Sensational Devotion  examines contemporary Passion plays, biblical theme parks, Holy Land recreations, creationist museums, and megachurches in order to understand how they serve their evangelical believer-users while also shaping larger cultural and national dialogues. The book examines how performative media support specific theologies and core beliefs by creating sensual, live experiences for those who use them. Because they often appear in accessible, familiar forms (such as theme parks) and employ pop culture motifs, a wide range of people—including those hostile toward Christianity or religion generally—are often willing to “try out” these genres, even if only for curiosity’s sake. This familiarity not only helps these genres achieve their goals, but it also enables them to contribute to public dialogue about the role of religious faith in America. The book demonstrates the unique ways in which these genres, which certainly reflect religious belief, also simultaneously make religious belief.

Jill Stevenson explores evangelical performance across a range of media and sites, including film, television, theater, tourist attractions, museums, and places of worship. Using historical research coupled with firsthand experiences at the evangelical venues, Stevenson not only critically examines these spaces and events within their specific religious, cultural, and national contexts, but also places them within a longer devotional tradition in order to suggest how they cultivate religious belief by generating vivid, sensual, affectively oriented, and individualized experiences.

Stevenson shows how the genres analyzed function through a distinctive dramaturgy that assumes certain interpretations of representation, realism, enactment, spectatorship, and presence, in order to achieve particular aesthetic, ideological, and experiential effects. The performances don’t simply represent theological concepts and depict biblical stories, but confront users with vivid, sensual, and rhythmic experiences designed to foster embodied beliefs that will respond to specific devotional needs and desires. Employing cognitive theory and theories of affect, the author demonstrates how these performative forms effectively foster the personal and experiential aspects of American evangelicalism, thereby reinforcing core theological tenets by means of the believer-user’s body.

Sensational Devotion contributes to existing scholarship on American evangelicalism and evangelical Christian media, especially work that examines performance. The analysis builds upon existing work on performance and cognition, as well as theories of affect. The author also draws connections between contemporary Protestant forms and medieval affective culture, thereby contributing to scholarship on medieval culture and medievalism. Finally, this book responds to the growing public interest in evangelical Christianity and evangelical media generally.

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