Friday, November 13, 2009

Roxanne Mountford Lecture

(from the Campus Calendar) Next Wednesday (November 18) at 10:00 in the Leu Art Gallery (in the Library), Roxanne Mountford, associate professor of English and Writing Program Director at the University of Kentucky, will give a lecture entitled "Rhetorical Performance and Religious Authenticity: The Case of Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944)" Professor Mountford's talk will explore the tensions between rhetorical performance and authenticity in American public life by examining the press accounts of the preaching of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. In the 1920s and 1930s, McPherson was one of the most famous individuals in America. Her sermons are described by observers as "supernatural whoopee," complete with props, costumes, and unparalleled style of delivery. She built a 5,000-seat temple in Los Angeles at a time when women ministers were still exceedingly rare. Religious authorities since St. Augustine have argued that the effectiveness of the sermon trumps all other considerations, including the moral standing of the preacher. But the spectacle McPherson loved raised questions of authenticity with the American press, and journalists ultimately brought down her career by tirelessly investigating her moral standing.

Langston Hughes famously namechecked McPherson in his controversial 1932 poem, "Goodbye Christ" (for which McPherson's followers famously harrassed Hughes during his 1940 tour promoting The Big Sea).

Academic Lecture convo credit will be offered for undergraduates.