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Souls and Commodities: Spirituality and Print Culture in 20th-Century America
Erin Smith, University of Texas, Dallas
Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FT-47099-02
What Would Jesus Read?: Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America (Book)
Title: What Would Jesus Read?: Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America
Author: Erin A. Smith
Abstract: Since the late nineteenth century, religiously themed books in American have been commercially popular yet scorned by critics. Working at the intersection of literary history, lived religion, and consumer culture, Erin A. Smith considers the largely unexplored world of popular religious books, examining the apparent tension between economic and religious imperatives for authors, publishers, and readers. Smith argues that this literature served as a form of extra-ecclesiastical ministry and credits the popularity and longevity of religious books to their day-to-day usefulness rather than their theological correctness or aesthetic quality.
Drawing on publishers' records, letters from readers to authors, promotional materials, and interviews with contemporary religious reading groups, Smith offers a comprehensive study that finds surprising overlap across the religious spectrum--Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, liberal and conservative. Smith tells the story of how authors, publishers, and readers reconciled these books' dual function as best-selling consumer goods and spiritually edifying literature. What Would Jesus Read? will be of interest to literary and cultural historians, students in the fields of print culture, and scholars of religious studies.
Primary URL: http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=3600
Primary URL Description: University of North Carolina Press website
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Type: Single author monograph
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes
Melodrama, Popular Religion, and Literary Value: The Case of Harold Bell Wright (Article)
Title: Melodrama, Popular Religion, and Literary Value: The Case of Harold Bell Wright
Author: Erin A. Smith
Abstract: This article looks closely at the career of Harold Bell Wright, a Social Gospel novelist who achieved immense popularity but is almost entirely absent from American literary history. Wright's That Printer of Udell's (1903), The Shepherd of the Hills (1907), The Calling of Dan Matthews (1909), The Winning of Barbara Worth (1911), and The Eyes of the World (1914) outsold almost every other novel published before World War I. However, Wright's blatantly commercial and blatantly evangelical model of authorship left him outside the literary mainstream. I consider the role of mail-order distribution, advertising, and film tie-ins in reaching a large nonliterary audience and argue that these books succeeded not as aesthetic objects, but as popular melodramas for white, Protestant , predominantly rural and small-town readers.
Primary URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3568032
Primary URL Description: link to journal online
Periodical Title: American Literary History 17.2 (Summer 2005): 217-43
Publisher: Oxford University Press