American Preaching: Word, Performance, and Media

A provocation: There is no more significant historical influence on the development of American language and literature, political oratory, musical/entertainment style, and
the refinement of media and technology—all of which is to say “American culture”— than preachers and their preaching. This course begins with a brief historical overview of the diversity of American preaching and some primary cultural and theoretical concerns before tracing its contributions to presumably “secular” culture considered in three categories: word (literature, rhetoric, and authority), performance (music, oratory, symbolic action, embodiment, affect), and media (pamphlets, radio, television, Internet, and other technologies). In the process we’ll consider religious dimensions of cultural production, questions of authority and identity, phenomenologies of charisma and emotion, and the critical possibilities for theology, homiletics, and other confessional “data” within the study of religion and culture.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

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