The Viper on the Hearth Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy

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  • Edition: Revised
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2013-01-31
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Published in 1997, Terryl Givens'sThe Viper on the Hearthwas widely praised as a landmark work--indeed,The Wall Street Journalhailed it as "one of the five best books on Mormonism." Now, in the wake of a tidal wave of Mormon-inspired artistic, literary, and political activity--ranging from the Broadway hitThe Book of Mormon, to the HBO seriesBig Love, to the political campaign of Mitt Romney--Givens presents an updated edition that addresses the continuing presence and reception of the Mormon image in contemporary culture. The Viper on the Hearthshowed how nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers frequently cast the Mormon as a stock villain in such fictional genres as mysteries, westerns, and popular romances. If today some authors like Tom Clancy use "Mormon" as shorthand for "clean cut and patriotic," earlier writers more often depicted the Mormons as a violent and perverse people--the "viper on the hearth"--who sought to violate the domestic sphere of the mainstream. Givens is the first to reveal how popular fiction constructed an image of the Mormon as a religious and social Other. The list of authors includes both American and English writers, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes mystery to Zane Grey'sRiders of the Purple Sage, from Robert Louis Stevenson'sThe Dynamiterto Jack London'sStar Rover. For this edition, Givens has expanded the final chapter, shedding further light on the Mormon presence in contemporary American culture, with insightful discussions of topics ranging from the musical,The Book of Mormon, to the political campaigns of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

Author Biography

Terryl L. Givens is Professor of Literature and Religion and James A. Bostwick Chair of English, University of Richmond. His books on Mormonism and American religious culture include By the Hand of Mormon, People of Paradox and (with Matthew Grow) Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism.

Table of Contents


Part I: Mormonism, Politics, and History
1. "Out of the Sphere of Religion": The Sacred, the Profane, and the Mormons
2. "This Upstart Sect": The Mormon Problem in American History
3. "Manners, Habits, Customs, and Even Dialect": Sources of the Mormon Conflict
4. "An Age of Humbugs": The Contemporary Scene
5. "This Great Modern Abomination": Orthodoxy and Heresy in American Religion

Part II: Mormonism and Fiction
6. "Ground in the Presbyterian Smut Machine": The Popular Press, Fiction, and Moral Crusading
7. "The Ain't Whites...They're Mormons": Fictive Responses to the Anxiety of Seduction
8. "Murder and Mystery -- Mormon Style": The Mormon Image in the Twentieth Century


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