Protestant Evangelical Literary Culture and Contemporary Society

Protestant Evangelical Literary Culture and Contemporary Society

Protestant Evangelical Literary Culture and Contemporary Society

Protestant Evangelical Literary Culture and Contemporary Society

Synopsis

While studies have been done on the politics, personalities, and television empires of Protestant evangelicals, little has been said about the power of evangelical publishing and the recent upsurge in evangelical fiction. In the last 20 years, evangelical publishing has grown into a multimillion dollar business, and evangelical fiction offers valuable information about the Protestant evangelical experience. This book argues that the authors and publishers of evangelical fiction are purposeful gatekeepers who create specific images of an evangelical universe. Characters and plots of evangelical literature not only embody a religious perspective but also advocate appropriate behaviors and solutions to problems. This study brings together research in the history of Protestant evangelicalism, the sociology of religion, and literary studies to explore how evangelical novels can serve as cultural artifacts of the evangelical community in contemporary American society.

Excerpt

Underlying my work as both an archivist and a scholar is a strong interest in the stories communities tell to themselves and about themselves. There is power in telling stories. Oral histories and folklore help bind the past and present. Across history and nations, communities have gathered around stories. In twentieth- century America, deliberate efforts have been made by African- Americans, feminists, gays and lesbians, Native Americans, and Hispanics to establish publishing houses that will nurture and sustain their particular voices and visions.

This book concerns the stories of yet another American community-- contemporary Protestant evangelicals. While studies have been done on their politics, personalities, and television empires, little notice has been taken of the power of evangelical publishing and a recent upsurge in evangelical fiction. The novels produced by Zondervan, Bethany House, Thomas Nelson, Crossway, and similar evangelical publishers are more than sanitized entertainment. They are windows into the many ways this community defines itself.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My exploration of the stories within the Protestant evangelical community was sustained and assisted by a network of scholars in several communities across the United States. In Maryland, Gordon Kelly, Anne MacLeod, Hasia Diner, James Gilbert, John Caughey, Myron Lounsberry, and Judy Solberg reviewed the manuscript, assisted with contacts and helped refine my ideas. From Texas and Indiana, Victoria McLure, Janetta Paschal, and Barbara Stedman offered encouragement and editorial advice. And closer to home, the staff of the E. H. Little Library at Davidson College provided support for my dual roles of . . .

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