The Touch of the Word: Evangelical Cultures of Print in Antebellum America


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project analyzes the reception of evangelical popular print media in the United States between 1825 and 1860, a key stage in the history of mass reproduction. It specifically examines the reception of tracts, books, and periodicals produced by the American Tract Society, the most prolific publisher in antebellum America. Demonstrating that print media provides more than containers for words, it argues that antebellum Americans primarily encountered religious print as a visual, tactile, and affective event. The project’s textual and material archival research reconstructs four predominant sensorial ways in which Americans encountered the power of religious print: through discipline, consumption, play, and initiation.