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Sensational Devotion

Evangelical Performance in Twenty-First-Century America

Subjects: Theater and Performance, Religion, American Studies, Cultural Studies
Hardcover : 9780472118731, 328 pages, 18 B&W illustrations, 6 x 9, April 2013
Paperback : 9780472036516, 328 pages, 18 B&W illustrations, 6 x 9, October 2015
Ebook : 9780472029099, 328 pages, 18 illustrations, April 2013
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How evangelical theme parks, museums, and other performance sites both reflect and create religious belief

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Sensational Devotion examines contemporary Passion plays, biblical theme parks, Holy Land recreations, creationist museums, and megachurches in order to understand how they serve their evangelical believer-users while also shaping larger cultural and national dialogues. Jill Stevenson explores how performative media support specific theologies and core beliefs by creating sensual, live experiences for those who use them. The book explores evangelical performance across a range of media and sites, including film, television, theater, tourist attractions, museums, and places of worship. Using historical research coupled with firsthand experiences, it critically examines these spaces and events within their specific religious, cultural, and national contexts, while placing them within a long devotional tradition to suggest how they cultivate religious belief by generating vivid, sensual, affectively oriented, and individualized experiences. Stevenson’s analysis builds upon existing work on performance and cognition, as well as theories of affect, as it contributes to existing scholarship on American evangelicalism and evangelical Christian media. 

Jill Stevenson is Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at Marymount Manhattan College.  

"Jill Stevenson’s compelling analysis, Sensational Devotion, argues convincingly that evangelical performance is instead a complex articulation of belief that is shaping a larger conversation about the role of religious faith in America. ... This is a lively and engaging work of scholarship that is a pleasure to read."
Theatre Journal

- Theatre Journal

"[Stevenson] offeres a fascinating, challenging, and necessary survey of how evangelical Christianity performs itself and its theologies in a variety of locales and formats. ... The volume is eminently readable, and Stevenson's style is accessible but still scholarly. This book will be valuable in a variety of disciplines."

- K.J. Wetmore