April 19, 2001
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Burke Long, professor emeritus of religion at Bowdoin College, will speak on “Madame Mountford, Diva of Fantasy Bibles and Other Victorian Entertainments” on Thursday, April 25, at 4 p.m. in the McCaffrey Room in the Keefe Campus Center at Amherst College. The lecture is sponsored by the Willis Wood Fund and the Religion Department and open to the public.
The story of Lydia Mamreoff von Finkelstein Mountford touches on the history of religion in 19th- and early 20th-century America, “orientalism,” the cultural history of the U.S., Bible sutdies, cultural studies and women’s studies. Long will speak about the activities of this actress and preacher, who found a measure of acceptance without challenging many entrenched assumptions about gender and religion. Mountford imagined and performed scenes and stories from Bible life as a dramatic lecturer, presenting more than 200 performances a year and making 5,000 appearances worldwide over 25 years. Her restless operatic style—an Australian critic in 1888 called her a “six-foot blonde of Amazonian proportions who would be the envy of any tragedy queen”—lent vivid color and persuasiveness to what were in effect “living” Bibles, ephemeral moments of performance when the play became the thing itself, accomplishing the ideological and political work usually associated with the written Bible.