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dc.contributor.authorHayes, John Herbert
dc.description.abstract“Hard, Hard Religion: Faith and Class in the New South” argues that a fervent people’s religious culture permeated the rural New South, and was a central element in the persona and music of an iconic figure from that world, Johnny Cash. A distinct religious sensibility—a regional “popular religion,” or what one white farm laborer called “hard, hard religion”—constituted a central medium through which the rural poor, white and black, articulated and engaged with the hard everyday forces in their lives in the New South: confinement, marginality, injustice, and ridicule. This sensibility was not a static “old time religion,” an “otherworldly” compensation, or a psychological coping mechanism. Indeed, through the mediated forms of “folk” music and early “hillbilly” and “race” records, this popular religion has recurrently attracted outsiders for its complex engagement with modernity and its discontents, even though the dominant categories of historical analysis, those that conceptualize southern power relations and religion solely through the lens of race, have obscured it. I focus in on the persona and music of Johnny Cash, demonstrating that a principal aspect of his durable popular appeal was his creative engagement with the “hard, hard religion” he absorbed in his youth, in a rural community in Arkansas in the 1930s and ‘40s. In wrestling with the meaning of his inherited faith, Cash sang basic themes from the older culture—an abiding sense of evil and of perpetual struggle against darkness, a via negativa as the path to God, a feeling of mystery and the stark limit in life, and a democratic spirit of favoritism for the lowly—into American popular culture from the 1960s until his death in 2003.
dc.subjectPoor--Southern States
dc.subjectSouthern States--Religion
dc.subjectSouthern States--History--1865-1950
dc.titleHard, hard religion
dc.title.alternativefaith and class in the New South
dc.description.advisorKathleen Clark
dc.description.committeeKathleen Clark
dc.description.committeeMichael Kwass
dc.description.committeeAllan Kulikoff
dc.description.committeeMichael Winship
dc.description.committeeJames Cobb

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