Date of Award

Fall 12-20-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Isaac Weiner

Second Advisor

Dr. Kathryn McClymond

Third Advisor

Dr. Molly Bassett

Abstract

This project examines recent fiction by ex-Mormon authors and highlights how these novels reinforce an American ideal of “good religion.” These texts reveal the boundaries of American religious freedom by illustrating examples of “bad religion” and providing favorable alternatives. The paper looks at scholarship on 19th century anti-Mormon literature, which provides a foundation for the more modern literature at hand. Through the recent narratives, authors point to an abstract concept of benign, acceptable religion, marking as harmful that which does not share these key characteristics. While these fictional sects appear differently in each work, they comment on similar themes, such as the threat of rigid authority structures and figures, community isolation and insulation, coercive proselytizing and manipulation, and an emphasis on escaping the sect. These themes highlight the existence of a particular brand of American “good religion,” which is antithetical to such groups illustrated in these texts.

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