Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity

R. Marie Griffith, Author . Univ. of California $55 (323p) ISBN 978-0-520-21753-9 ISBN 978-0-520-24240-1

This wide-ranging examination of body obsession and American religion reads like two separate but excellent books. The first half explores phrenology and New Thought, considering sects and writers prominent during the 19th and early 20th centuries and documenting their attempts to control their bodies in an effort to achieve physical and spiritual perfection. Griffith offers fascinating analyses of the writing and work of dozens of both famous and completely unknown practitioners. For example, Mary Baker Eddy receives ample treatment, then, as an added bonus, Griffith introduces Hattie Harlow, an ordinary woman whose unpublished accounts of her own phrenological initiatives yield insight into the ways Eddy's movement seeped into the popular imagination. The second half of the book is an ethnography of contemporary Christian approaches to weight loss in America. Griffith continues with her fine analyses of books and movements—most notably Gwen Shamblin's Weigh Down—and also includes excerpts from her interviews with authors of Christian weight loss books and participants in Christian diet programs. While Griffith's attitude toward the subjects of the first half of her book is that of a dispassionate academic, she is critical of the perspectives of contemporary Christian weight loss gurus, pointing out their insistence upon seeing fatness in psychological rather than historical, racial or socioeconomic terms. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 337 pages - 978-0-520-93811-3
Hardcover - 323 pages - 978-0-520-21753-9
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