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Sola Scriptura? Book History and Religious Authority in the United States

Sola Scriptura? Book History and Religious Authority in the United States
1 Devonshire Place, room 208N
Time: Jan 29th, 4:15 pm End: Jan 29th, 6:00 pm
Interest Categories: United States Studies, Religion, Study of (FAS), Information, Faculty of, History (FAS), History & Philosophy of Science & Technology (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Book History/Print Culture, 1950-2000, 1900-1950, 1800-1900, 1500-1800
Toronto Centre for the Book lecture by Matthew Hedstrom, University of Virginia

The Toronto Centre for the Book is pleased to present:

Matthew Hedstrom, Religious Studies and American Studies, University of Virginia

Sola Scriptura? Book History and Religious Authority in the United States

Protestantism has been the dominant influence shaping both American religious history and the history of American book culture, as the drive for widespread literary, mass book dissemination, and the public school movement were each significantly driven by the religious imperative to access the Word. The Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura energized the first large-scale publishing project in North America, John Eliot’s Algonquin Bible of 1663. From these beginnings, through the nineteenth-century Bible and tract societies, to the Christian Booksellers Association of the present, the story of Protestantism in the United States has been inseparable from the drive to control and disseminate print. Yet all along, print has also served as a site of religious conflict and a tool of religious innovation and dissent, as examples ranging from Tom Paine and the Book of Mormon to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Oprah Winfrey make clear.

This lecture will attend to this dynamic of authority, to the role of print in the interplay of establishment and dissent in American religious life. Three themes structure the analysis: the relationship between scriptural and non-scriptural forms of print; the gendered dimensions of reading, literacy, and authorship; and the nature of print as commodity, and therefore as a site where market dynamics shape religion with particular potency. Through an examination of key examples across four centuries, this talk aims to consider a basic historiographical question: how do the frameworks of book history sharpen our understanding of authority in American religious history

Matthew Hedstrom is a historian of the United States specializing in religion and culture in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His overarching research interests are the social history of religious sensibilities and the cultural mechanisms of their production and propagation. His particular areas of teaching and research thus far have been religious liberalism, spirituality, the cultures and politics of pluralism, religion and race, and print culture. His first book, The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century, employs novel sources in book history to tell the surprising story of religious liberalism’s cultural ascendancy in the twentieth century. The religious middlebrow culture of mid-century, Professor Hedstrom argues, brought psychological, mystical, and cosmopolitan forms of spirituality to broad swaths of the American middle class. He has also authored various articles, reviews, and reference works in American studies and American religious history. He is beginning work on a new book project on race and the search for religious authenticity from the Civil War through the 1960s.

This event is free and open to all.  For further information, please contact the office of the collaborative program in Book History and Print Culture.

Co-sponsored by the Centre for the Study of the United States.

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