2007 Student Research Conference:
20th Annual Student Research Conference

Language & Literature

Elmer Gantry's Manipulation by Music
Amy L. Schweizer
Dr. Alanna Preussner, Faculty Mentor

While Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry is not sold with an accompanying CD soundtrack filled with hymns, the reader quickly finds the influence of music in many of the revivalist scenes of the novel. I propose that Elmer uses music as a technique to which the crowds in the tent revivals respond readily. He alters tone, instrumentation, hymn selection, and timing to create a desired effect among his converts. Analyzing hymns as a conversion technique makes one wonder why people respond to music – especially Christian music – in the way they do. Tony Walter writes that music has become secular on a much slower scale than many other artistic disciplines. He credits tradition with this result, but Walter also points to music as a spiritual act in itself. It cannot be seen, merely heard. One may think about spirituality in a similar manner; it cannot be seen, only felt.

Keywords: Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry, hymns, evangelism

Topic(s):English

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 26-4
Location: VH 1428
Time: 10:30 am

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