Oberdeck, Kathryn J.

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OBERDECK, Kathryn J.


Female. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A. (sociology; with honors), 1981; Yale University, M.A. (American studies), 1987, Ph.D. (American studies), 1991.


Office—Department of History, University of Illinois, 309 Gregory Hall, 810 South Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian and author. Yale University, New Haven, CT, part-time instructor, 1987, 1989, 1990-91; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, assistant professor of history, 1991-93, 1994-95; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, assistant professor of history, 1993—.


American Historical Association, American Studies Association, Organization of American Historians, Phi Beta Kappa.


Annette K. Baxter travel grant, 1988; Whiting fellowship in the humanities, Yale University, 1988-89; Hibernian research award, Cushwa Center, University of Notre Dame, 1992; University of Illinois Research Board grants, 1993, 1995-96, 1997, 1998-99; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, 1997.


The Evangelist and the Impresario: Religion, Entertainment, and Cultural Politics in America, 1884-1914, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1999.

Contributor of articles to books and to professional journals, including Radical History Review, American Quarterly, History, and Journal of American History.


Professional articles on U.S. cultural and intellectual history.


Kathryn J. Oberdeck specializes in U.S. cultural studies, focusing on intellectual and popular culture, working-class culture, and gender studies. Her 1999 book, The Evangelist and the Impresario: Religion, Entertainment, and Cultural Politics in America, 1884-1914, is an examination of the relationships "between popular religion, popular theater, and class conflict in turn-of-the-[twentieth-]century America," according to Oberdeck's profile on the University of Illinois Web site.

Oberdeck examines these connections on the personal level by examining two historical figures. Writing in the Journal of Religion, Beryl Satter noted that Oberdeck's study "traces the careers of Alexander Irvine, an Irish immigrant minister who became a socialist, World War I-moral-booster, self-help lecturer, and vaudeville performer, and of Sylvester Poli, an Italian immigrant who became the head of a New Haven-based vaudeville circuit." These men, though largely unknown today, act as virtual guides to the conflict between popular, working-class culture and religion and that of the more elite white Protestant sector. However, Satter went on to note that the real "tour guide" of this book is Oberdeck herself, whose "fantastic learning well suits her for this role." Writing in the Journal of American History, Eugene McCarraher commented that "despite … stylistic annoyances, Oberdeck provides a vivid and provocative example of cultural history at its finest." R. Laurence Moore also had praise for Oberdeck's book in a Church History review, observing the author's "great intelligence, a daunting command of source material, and a curiosity that leads her imagination into fascinating byways." For Moore, Oberdeck's book "served to widen our lens of cultural analysis," while a contributor for American Historical Review commended The Evangelist and the Impresario as an "ambitious and fascinating book."



American Historical Review, April, 2001, review of The Evangelist and the Impresario: Religion, Entertainment, and Cultural Politics in America, 1884-1914.

Church History, September, 2001, R. Laurence Moore, review of The Evangelist and the Impresario, pp. 591-593.

Journal of American History, June, 2001, Eugene McCarraher, review of The Evangelist and the Impresario, pp. 218-219.

Journal of Religion, April, 2001, Beryl Satter, review of The Evangelist and the Impresario, p. 286.


University of Illinois Department of History Web site,http://www.history.uiuc.edu/ (July 6, 2004), "Kathryn J. Oberdeck."*