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Martha L. Finch

Martha L. Finch is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she specialized in American religious history. She has held research fellowships at the Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University. Her first book is Dissenting Bodies: Corporealities in Early New England (Columbia 2010) and she is co-editor with Etta M. Madden of Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias (Nebraska 2006). Finch’s current book project, tentatively titled “Outward Adornment: Plain Dress in American Protestantism,” demonstrates that for many Protestants dress has constellated critical concerns and values. Such groups as New England Puritans, early Methodists, Baptists, and other evangelicals, as well as pentecostals, all attempted to regulate what people wore. They rejected fashionable, worldly garb in order to promote plain and modest outward adornment as a sign of inner godliness, holiness, and purity. Considering across time how and why these groups focused such attention on the visible materiality of dress complicates understandings of how they viewed the relationship between "inner" soul and "outer" body, shedding light on the Protestant contribution to the formation of the modern notion of the "true" self as internalized subject.

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