Session C: 1:45PM – 3:15PM

Humanities. Session C – Oral Presentations. Boyer Conference (2nd floor), Alumni House

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Location: Boyer Conference (2nd floor), Alumni House


“To Inherit God Himself?”: The Metaphysical Transformation of Man in Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana
Michael Green, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor Paul Kerry, Brigham Young University

SESSION C 1:45-2:00PM
Boyer Conference (2nd floor), Alumni House

This research examines Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana, the first scriptural commentary written in North America, his largest and most comprehensive work, and only recently discovered by scholars after more than two hundred years of neglect. The Biblia Americana is an enlightened response to the early eighteenth-century ascension of higher criticism, which sought to impose a historical-literal exegesis on the Bible and thereby threatened its secularization. This research is concerned with Mather’s theological assertions in the Biblia Americana, both in how he reaffirms or rejects Reformation exegetical methodologies and conclusions while simultaneously trying to absorb certain aspects of Enlightenment thinking. Specifically, this research explores how Mather’s theorization of experiential piety influenced his ontological conception of both God and man, which consequently shaped his soteriological and eschatological claims. This includes an examination of Christ’s dyohypostatic nature, the creation and function of the human soul, experiential piety in relation to mortal life, and the post-mortal processes of resurrection and metaphysical transformation. The Biblia Americana reveals that Mather possessed a unique theological stance that included a progressive spirituality nurtured through a personal connection with divinity and culminating in the glorification of the soul and body. These findings reconceptualize Mather’s character and legacy, which currently stands as a symbol of aggressive Puritanism; challenges the narrative of moderate Biblical exegetists as stagnant and purely apologetic, rather than as active, explorative, and creative; and illuminates a theology that in some ways radically departs from Reformation theology and returns to a more patristic mindset. Thus Mather’s Biblia Americana acts as a bridge between the Enlightenment and the American First Great Awakening.


The Concept of Holiness in the Book of Mormon: A Thematic Textual Analysis
Rebekah Wilson, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor Isaac Calvert, Brigham Young University

SESSION C 2:05-2:20PM
Boyer Conference (2nd floor), Alumni House

This article presents a thematic analysis on the concept of Holiness as presented in the primary source text of The Book of Mormon. Fields of academic inquiry including counseling psychology, humanities, sociology and anthropology have seen a recent surge of interest in the meaning and experience of holiness in the midst of the 21st century’s interfaith and multiculturalist trends. This paper seeks, in part, to contribute to this scholarly conversation by presenting a multifaceted description of this text’s perspective on the meaning and lived experience of holiness. We began this project by conducting an exhaustive thematic analysis of the text by searching for key terms directly related to the overarching theme of holiness including (together with their grammatical derivatives) holy, unholy, holiness, sanctify, sacred, consecrate, desecrate and sanctification. Having found 17 themes in our primary analysis, we then conducted secondary and tertiary analyses of salient themes to arrive at three principal thematic categories: God as holiness, dispositional holiness and reciprocal holiness. Each of these thematic categories include multiple subthemes. The first theme describes how various facets of the nature of holiness itself are seen as synonymous with God’s character, attributes and actions. The second makes the dual assertion that one’s disposition can be both an initiating catalyst for holiness as well as a consequence of the experience and pursuit of holiness. The last theme suggests that holiness can only be fully realized by the mutual participation of both God on one hand and humanity on the other. We hope that this research will contribute to growing contemporary discussions regarding holiness by examining the meaning of holiness based on primary analysis of this sacred text.


“Surfaces and Appearances”: Character, Physiognomy, and Communication in Charles Dickens’s and Wilkie Collins’s A Message from the Sea
Rachel Gouff, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor Jamie Horrocks, Brigham Young University

SESSION C 2:25-2:40PM
Boyer Conference (2nd floor), Alumni House

Charles Dickens has been known as “the inventor of Christmas” since his 1843 Christmas Carol popularized the holiday. Most readers, however, are unaware that Dickens actually wrote many other “Christmas” stories and published them to be read during the festive season. These stories-including A Message from the Sea (1860)-often had nothing to do with Christmas itself. Rather than snowy villages and evergreens, A Message from the Sea includes ghosts, cannibals, a murderous innkeeper, a mysterious message in a bottle, and a long-lost brother.  In this thrilling tale of adventure, full of shady characters and near-death experiences, whether or not a character survives depends on their ability to read moral character in the physical appearances of others. The visibility of one’s inner virtue in one’s outward appearance, or “physiognomy,” was a popular concept in Victorian England and appears frequently in Dickens’s literature. In fact, physiognomy was widely considered a science and was treated as such; if a person was beautiful they were assumed to be good, if a person was ugly they were assumed to be bad. Physiognomy was taken so seriously that people were sometimes accused or acquitted of crimes based solely on their physical appearance. My presentation examines physiognomy within Dickens’s Christmas novella A Message from the Sea. Rather than simply embracing or rejecting the pseudo-science, Dickens suggests that although physiognomy is reliable in determining a person’s moral character, it falls short when it comes to accurately reading a character’s real emotions or personal history. Thus, in this novella, physiognomy reveals itself to be an art as superficial as the message in the bottle that the story centers around, a message whose “ink had faded and run.” Dickens represents messages conveyed physiognomically as largely intelligible, but limited enough that relying on physiognomy alone will always leave one vulnerable to misunderstanding.


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Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research 2023 - Program Copyright © 2023 by Office of Undergraduate Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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