Fundamentalist Aesthetics: Sensation and Scripture in Early Twentieth-Century American Fundamentalism


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Religious Studies


This dissertation recovers “aesthetics” as an analytical term for the study of religions. It does so to gain insight into the sensory life of a conservative religious tradition, American Protestant fundamentalism, that usually denies it has any sensory life. Covering the crucial period from 1890-1930, it tells a new story about the rise of an influential American religious movement. The project puts sensing bodies at the center of the fundamentalist tradition. Though usually remembered for its abstruse doctrines or conservative politics, the dissertation demonstrates that its configurations of the senses really made fundamentalism unique. Each chapter unpacks the operations of a particular sense to show how it shaped early fundamentalist history: sight, hearing, touch, and the “spiritual sense.”