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The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (Religion in America) 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195101836
ISBN-10: 0195101839
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"A wonderfully thought-through look at the interrelationships between fiction, religion, and the culture of humor/hostility....It represents a significant contribution to our understanding of literary relations."--Larry H. Peer, Brigham Young University


In this fascinating study, he examines how Mormons have been constructed as the great and abominable "other". Interestingly, although the religion was once scorned for its weirdness,"it is now because Mormons occupy what used to be the center that they fall into contempt"(164).--Utah Historical Quarterly


"The prose, illustrations, and overall construction of the book are aesthetically pleasing. The exemplary scholarship significantly enriches Mormon historiography....Few books succeed, as this one does, in stimulating thought far beyond their own scope."--Journal of Mormon History


"Contains provocative insights into American culture, LDS identity, nineteenth-century literature, rhetorics of oppression, and religious formation....I highly recommend this book."--Religious Studies Review


"This is the first full explanation of why Mormons have been demonized by a nation that prides itself on open toleration of all faiths. Givens carefully appraises every past explanation for the printed attacks and physical persecutions that occurred from the 1830s onward, as newspapers, novels, and satires convinced a 'tolerant' public that Mormons should not be tolerated. He then makes a convincing argument that the primary affront the Mormons offered was theological: their anthropomorphic picture of God and of his continuing personal revelations to the one true church. The book is thus an impressive achievement that should interest not just Mormons or other religious believers but anyone who cares about how 'freedom-loving,' 'tolerant' Americans turned 'heretics' into subhuman monsters deserving destruction."--Wayne Booth, University of Chicago (Emeritus)


"...a powerful and compelling thesis...[an] ingenious reading...For a great reading experience in thoughtful and independently conceived religious and cultural thinking rare in Mormon studies, turn to this recent addition in the excellent 'Religion in America Series,' published by Oxford University Press."--Journal of American Ethnic History


"A wonderfully thought-through look at the interrelationships between fiction, religion, and the culture of humor/hostility....It represents a significant contribution to our understanding of literary relations."--Larry H. Peer, Brigham Young University


"The Viper on the Hearth by Terryl L. Givens is a remarkably lucid and useful study of the patterns of American prejudices against the Mormon people. It provides also a valuable paradigm for the study of all religious "heresy"."--Harold Bloom


"This work is a model of significant interdisciplinary study."--Western American Literature


"[Givens] precisely situates the literature in American and Mormon history....he is the first to survey anti-Mormon writing thoroughly."--The Journal of American History


"Given's survey of histories and historians...is impressive. It enriches our perspective on such thought-provoking questions as whether Mormons comprise a religion, an ethnic group, or "a people," and why that matters."--Western Historical Quarterly


"The book is thoroughly documented and Givens writes with a graceful style. This is an excellent example of both historical and literary scholarship."--American Historical Review


From the Back Cover

The Viper on the Hearth is the first full-length study to look at representations of Mormonism in popular fiction, enhancing our understanding of the religion's vexed relationship to American society. The book reconsiders the nature of Mormonism's encounter with mainstream religion, and asks how a category like "heresy" can operate in a pluralistic society. Examining the ways in which Mormons have been portrayed in popular culture, Givens's study demonstrates how fiction can respond to cultural conflicts and anxieties by refashioning heresy into a more appropriate target for moral and political crusades.
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Product Details

  • Series: Religion in America
  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195101839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195101836
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,521,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ever since Harold Bloom's brilliant The American Religion was published, a difficult stalemate in Mormon studies has at least been partially broken. Mormon apologists and their anti-Mormon adversaries have always shot at each other like World War I armies engaged in trench warfare, trying to prove or disprove what is ultimately empirically and secularly unverifiable. Bloom's great insight was to examine Mormonism as a rhetorical system -- critically examining the doctrine as an intellectual construct within the context of American culture. He (and eventually many others) were surprised by just how attractive, encouraging, and quintessentially American Mormon doctrine really is. (And maybe this surprise will have the side effect of inducing sympathetic outsiders to take our truth claims more seriously.)

Other scholars are beginning to follow Bloom's lead. Terryl L. Givens' The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, myths, and the Construction of Heresy is a small gem of Mormon historiography and cultural criticism. The first half of the book is a tour-de-force recounting of Mormonism's eruption into 19th-century American consciousness. Because Jackson-era Americans were unable to admit they could not tolerate a new, home-grown religion (because of American constitutional doctrine of official religious tolerance), Givens says they recast their conflict with the upstart Mormons by stereotyping members of the new church as sinister, "Oriental" despots The second half of the book documents the construction of this image of Mormon heresy through 75 years of anti-Mormon fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
Have you ever wondered at the character of hate and prejudice in a society that claims to revere diversity? Terryl Givens uses the Mormon experience to explain how that happens, and specifically demonstrates the role of fiction in exacerbating persecution.

The book is the result of obvious exhaustive research, and is well put together, the arguments clear and concise. It is, however, a scholarly effort in both approach and language. Keep your dictionary handy. You may need it.

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and recommend the book to Mormons and non-Mormons alike. It's very interesting.

Dorothy Peterson
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very informative, but too academic for my likes.
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I bought a bunch of books and haven't started this one yet, but it looks promising.
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