978-1-56584-412-4 / 9781565844124

Serving the Word: Literalism in America from the Pulpit to the Bench


Publisher:New Press, The



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About the book:

A surprising look at America's search for certainty by a leading anthropologist and cultural critic. The rebirth of fundamentalist thinking in the rapidly changing world is a striking feature of our time. Vincent Crapanzano, one of the country's leading anthropologists, has written an extraordinary book examining the prevalence of fundamentalism and literalism and the unexpected forms they take in modern America, in both religious and secular life. An expert on North and South Africa, Crapanzano could have taken the cliched approach of seeking to understand the fundamentalist impulse in the context of Islam. Instead, he takes the more challenging--and fresher--route of looking at our own society. In a work that moves from wealthy Angelenos who embrace starkly literal readings of the Bible to Supreme Court Justice Scalia insisting on the narrowest interpretation of legal texts, Crapanzano makes a persuasive claim that the attraction to literal certainty that we associate with fringe fanaticism is in fact deeply embedded in American culture. Crapanzano's earlier works have been hailed as "brilliant" (Guardian), "deeply involving" (Publishers Weekly), and "utterly convincing" (Sunday Times). Like works including Christopher Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism, this new book poses basic questions about the state of America's mind and soul.

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