Matthew Hedstrom (University of Virginia)
March 4, 2011
Now an assistant professor of religious studies and American studies at the University of Virginia, Hedstrom held postdoctoral positions at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University and in the Lilly Fellows Program at Valparaiso University. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in American studies from the University of Texas at Austin and his B.A. in history from Haverford College. His main areas of teaching and research are religious liberalism, the cultures and politics of pluralism, religion and race, and print culture. Seeking a Spiritual Center: Books, Book Culture, and Liberal Religion in Modern America (Oxford University Press, 2011), his first book, offers new interpretations of the influence of religious liberalism on American culture in the 20th century, and of the place of consumer culture and print media in shaping spirituality. The book traces the rise of religious middlebrow culture in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s through an examination of key texts, reader reception, transformations in publishing, and a variety of public reading programs, and relates these developments to the production and propagation of liberal religious sensibilities and practices in the 20th century. This work draws on extensive research in archival collections around the country, including the Norman Vincent Peale and Frank Laubach collections at Syracuse.