Publishing for Seekers

Matthew S. Hedstrom

in The Rise of Liberal Religion

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195374490
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979141 | DOI:
Publishing for Seekers

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The venerable publishing house Harper and Brothers emerged in the late 1920s and 1930s as the firm that best represented the modernization and professionalization of religious publishing in the interwar period. Led by Eugene Exman, the religion department at Harper's produced a series of significant bestsellers during the Depression from authors Harry Emerson Fosdick, Glenn Clark, Emmet Fox and others. These authors and their works exemplified the broad, non-sectarian religious liberalism that animated middlebrow culture and that drove Harper's success. The religious orientation of Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, was inspired in part by Fox, and its publishing program was aided by Exman. In addition, Exman personally embodied the interplay of modern bookselling, the liberal religious establishment, and the expanding culture of cosmopolitan spirituality. With a mission to “aid the cause of religion” without advocating for “any particular sect,” Exman built the most significant list of religious authors in the publishing business, even as he himself embarked on a prototypical quest for spiritual enlightenment. Inspired by the author Gerald Heard, Exman explored Hindu meditation, psychology, psychedelics, and other spiritual techniques, and used his position at Harper's to bring these expanded spiritual horizons to the reading public.

Keywords: Harper and Brothers; Harper's; Eugene Exman Harry; Emerson Fosdick; Glenn Clark; Emmet Fox; alcoholics anonymous; religious publishing; spirituality; Gerald Heard

Chapter.  16837 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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