Paper $29.00 ISBN: 9780226474335 Published November 2019
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Make Yourselves Gods

Mormons and the Unfinished Business of American Secularism

Peter Coviello

Make Yourselves Gods

Peter Coviello

304 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2019
Paper $29.00 ISBN: 9780226474335 Published November 2019
Cloth $87.00 ISBN: 9780226474168 Published November 2019
E-book $10.00 to $29.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226474472 Published November 2019
From the perspective of Protestant America, nineteenth-century Mormons were the victims of a peculiar zealotry, a population deranged––socially, sexually, even racially––by the extravagances of belief they called “religion.” Make Yourselves Gods offers a counter-history of early Mormon theology and practice, tracking the Saints from their emergence as a dissident sect to their renunciation of polygamy at century’s end.
Over these turbulent decades, Mormons would appear by turns as heretics, sex-radicals, refugees, anti-imperialists, colonizers, and, eventually, reluctant monogamists and enfranchised citizens. Reading Mormonism through a synthesis of religious history, political theology, native studies, and queer theory, Peter Coviello deftly crafts a new framework for imagining orthodoxy, citizenship, and the fate of the flesh in nineteenth-century America. What emerges is a story about the violence, wild beauty, and extravagant imaginative power of this era of Mormonism—an impassioned book with a keen interest in the racial history of sexuality and the unfinished business of American secularism.

Prologue: Winter Quarters

Part One: Axiomatic
1              Introduction: What We Talk about When We Talk about Secularism

Part Two: Joy
2              Endless Felicity: The Radiant Body of Early Mormon Theology
3              Gods in Subjection: Women, Polygamy, and the Eternity of Sex

Part Three: Extermination
4              The Polygamist’s Complexion; or, The Book of Mormon Goes West
5              Wards and Sovereigns: Deviance and Dominion in the Biopolitics of Secularism

Part Four: Theodicy
6              Conclusion: Protohomonationalism


Review Quotes
Joan Wallach Scott, author of Sex and Secularism
“From a reviled set of bad beliefs and practices, Mormonism became a good white American religion by the end of the nineteenth century by redirecting the carnal life of the spirit to the reproduction of the domestic nuclear family. Make Yourselves Gods is at once a revisionist history of Mormonism and a critical engagement with theories of secularism, told with shining clarity in breathless, gorgeous prose.”
Nancy A. Bentley, University of Pennsylvania
“Full of splendid insight and erudition, Make Yourselves Gods explores the ‘imaginative wildness’ of early Mormon thought in tandem with the orthodoxies of secularism that attempted to suppress and discipline this distinctive cosmology, providing an unprecedented way of thinking about how religion and ‘bad belief’ are vital to American biopolitics.”
Molly McGarry, University of California, Riverside
“Coviello writes a genealogy of foreclosed intimacies and vexed affiliations, a tale of queer worlds lost or at least winnowed by the wages of U.S. whiteness, citizenship, and territorial recognition. An indispensable intervention in ‘postsecular critique,’ this book contains multitudes.”
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