The Hill Features Political Essay by Art Professor Mary Campbell

Mary Campbell, an assistant professor of art history and a lawyer, recently wrote an essay that was printed in The Hill,  a top US political website.

Mary Campbell is an assistant professor of American art history

Mary Campbell is an assistant professor of American art history

“With nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied in the scarlet state of Utah and a new poll showing Mormon independent candidate Evan McMullin in the lead there, it appears that the GOP presidential nominee might actually lose a state that hasn’t swung Democratic since 1964. How can this be?” she wrote.

In answering that question, Campbell points out the irony between the modern day image of Mormons and that of the past.

Utah’s mounting disdain of Trump’s words and actions toward women appears to stem from the Mormons’ “deep investment in conservative notions of marriage and family,” she argues.

“Today, the platonic ideal of a Latter-day Saint is the Mormon missionary — young, healthy and wholesome, this LDS icon doesn’t smoke, never drinks, and generally appears to have no vices more serious than a deep attachment to his bicycle and everyone else’s front door.”

But, Campbell points out, Americans’ image of Mormons was once was much different.

“Even after the Latter-day Saints officially relinquished polygamy in 1890, rumors of sexual bacchanalia and violence continued to plague them. At the turn of the century, in other words, the LDS church suffered from a distinctly Trumpian public-relations problem.”

Campbell, who is a non-Mormon Utah native, combines her interest in art and the law to study the intersections of American legal and visual culture.

Her areas of expertise include the history of nineteenth-century art, the history of 19th-century Mormonism, and the country’s legal and cultural response to Mormon polygamy. She has published on the topic in the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism. Her forthcoming book, Charles Ellis Johnson and the Erotic Image, will explore this issue further when it comes out in November.

Mary Campbell is available at 865-974-7828 or mcampb33@utk.edu.