Jared Halverson is a PhD student in Historical Studies, with a focus on American religious history but with an eye to its European antecedents. His interests lie in religious diversity, interaction, and conflict, particularly in the roles of biblical interpretation, canonical criticism, and reader reception in religious boundary maintenance. He specializes in the rhetoric of religious polemic, and is most interested in how the politics of humor—specifically the sociological and psychological effects of ridicule—are deployed in efforts to delegitimize the religious other.
His research and writing have ranged from the place of the Book of Mormon in the 19th century popular imagination to canonical constraints within New Religious Movements, and from religious epistemology in antebellum America to biblical rhetoric in US Presidential inaugural addresses. True to his interests in humor as a polemical device, he has written and presented research on the rhetoric of ridicule in 16th century anti-Semitism, 18th century anti-Methodism, and 19th century anti-Mormonism.
For his dissertation, Jared intends to explore the delegitimization of the Bible in America. Beginning with Thomas Paine, following such freethinkers as Fanny Wright and Robert Ingersoll, and culminating in the Scopes Trial, this project will examine how nonsense was deployed to define common sense—at least the particular “common sense” that antireligionists of the period hoped to enthrone.