Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Vol 43, No 2 (2014)

Protecting Her Image: Kathryn Kuhlman and the Manipulation of Negation

Amy Collier Artman
Issued Date: 22 Apr 2014

Abstract


In the panel article "Beautiful Babies, Hidden Mothers, and Plasticized Prisoners: The Display of Bodies and Theories of American Religion," this paper delves into a study of how the mid-twentieth-century “Miracle Woman,” the televangelist Kathryn Kuhlman, used popular media--first radio and then television--to control her own image. The panelist argues that Kuhlman’s deft utilization of television, in particular, enabled her not only to control her own image but also to change the image of charismatic Christianity for postwar American audiences. In addition to crafting an image of herself and charismatic Christianity, Kuhlman also mastered the discourse of elision in order to subordinate her very visible, very feminine body. As a female religious leader, Kuhlman had to contend with the practice of self-negation expected by women in many conservative Christian groups in order to gain any significant degree of power. In other words, Kuhlman had to “disappear” or “die” in order to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit if she was to maintain authority. As an embodied female she could not lead without first subordinating, even denying, her own very visible body.

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DOI: 10.1558/bsor.v43i2.19

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