Orthodox by Design, a groundbreaking exploration of religion and media, examines ArtScroll, the world’s largest Orthodox Jewish publishing house, purveyor of handsomely designed editions of sacred texts and a major cultural force in contemporary Jewish public life. In the first in-depth study of the ArtScroll revolution, Jeremy Stolow traces the ubiquity of ArtScroll books in local retail markets, synagogues, libraries, and the lives of ordinary users. Synthesizing field research conducted in three local Jewish scenes where ArtScroll books have had an impact—Toronto, London, and New York—along with close readings of key ArtScroll texts, promotional materials, and the Jewish blogosphere, he shows how the use of these books reflects a broader cultural shift in the authority and public influence of Orthodox Judaism. Playing with the concept of design, Stolow’s study also outlines a fresh theoretical approach to print culture and illuminates how evolving technologies, material forms, and styles of mediated communication contribute to new patterns of religious identification, practice, and power.
Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in the scholarship category, Jewish Book Council
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1. Authoritative and Accessible
2. Artscroll’s Public Life
3. Prayer Books, Cookbooks, Self-Help Books: Designs for Kosher Living
4. Materializing Authenticity
5. Gravity and Gravitas: A Concluding Reflection on Print Scripturalism in the Digital Age
Jeremy Stolow is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
"This is the first thorough study of the ArtScroll publishing 'phenomenon,' which is a major force in contemporary English-speaking Jewish life. It is deeply and richly informed by interdisciplinary work on semiotics, textuality and mediation. It will be quite useful to those working in areas such as religion and media, contemporary Jewish studies, history of print, sociology of religion, and American religion. And it should fascinate those who are regular if not always uncritical users of ArtScroll publications."—Jonathan Boyarin, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
"With stunning clarity, wit and originality, Jeremy Stolow takes us into the deeply influential but largely unexplored world of ArtScroll, a company that has cornered the market on the publishing of Orthodox religious prayer books, as well as a host of related works from cookbooks to self-help texts. With ethnographic and scholarly skill, and his characteristic attention to both detail and the big picture, Stolow reveals a social universe that is astonishingly complex, political and profitable. This inviting and groundbreaking book is a remarkable contribution to the fields of religion, media studies, and Judaic studies."—Faye Ginsburg, New York University
"Destined to become the classical study of print, piety and politics in the digital age, Orthodox by Design will force us to rethink many taken-for-granted assumptions about globalization, secularization and orthodoxy. A comprehensive investigation of global publishing, it offers fresh insight into the politics of translation, the emergence of a Jewish public sphere and the expanding influence of Haredi intellectuals."—Bryan S. Turner, editor of The Routledge International Handbook of Globalization Studies
"Orthodox by Design is a singular contribution to Jewish studies and the emergent field of religion and media. Stolow's masterful account of the Artscroll enterprise and its reception shows how materiality and media matter in the formation of religious sensibilities, practices, and everyday life in the contemporary world."—Elizabeth A. Castelli, author of Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making
"This carefully crafted, imaginative study of Artscroll offers a theoretically powerful perspective on the limitations of textual approaches of 'book religions.' Its relevance far exceeds the field of Jewish studies. I am thrilled by Stolow's deployment of 'design' as a key theoretical concept that leads beyond usual oppositions of spirit/matter, content/form or message/medium. Located at the intersection of religious studies, media studies and social sciences, Orthodox by Design is an outstanding, path-breaking intervention in broader debates about religion, media and materiality."—Birgit Meyer, author of Aesthetic Formations: Media, Religion and the Senses
Finalist in the scholarship category of the National Jewish Book Award, Jewish Book Council