The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy / Edition 1

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Nineteenth-century American writers frequently cast the Mormon as a stock villain in such fictional genres as mysteries, westerns, and popular romances. The Mormons were depicted as a violent and perverse people—the "viper on the hearth"—who sought to violate the domestic sphere of the mainstream. While other critics have mined the socio-political sources of anti-Mormonism, Givens is the first to reveal how popular fiction, in its attempt to deal with the sources and nature of this conflict, constructed an image of the Mormon as a religious and social "Other."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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 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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195101836
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Series: Religion in America Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Lexile: 1560L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 "Out of the Sphere of Religion": The Sacred, the Profane, and the Mormons 13
2 "This Upstart Sect": The Mormon Problem in American History 25
3 "Manners, Habits, Customs, and Even Dialect": Sources of the Mormon Conflict 40
4 "An Age of Humbugs": The Contemporary Scene 60
5 "This Great Modern Abomination": Orthodoxy and Heresy in American Religion 76
6 "Ground in the Presbyterian Smut Machine": The Popular Press, Fiction, and Moral Crusading 97
7 "They Ain't Whites . . . They're Mormons": Fictive Responses to the Anxiety of Seduction 121
8 "Murder and Mystery - Mormon Style": The Mormon Image in the Twentieth Century 153
Notes 168
Index 197
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