Scott McLaren


Scott Library
York University
4700 Keele St.
Toronto, ON
M3J 1P3

scottm [at]
yorku [dot] ca

research &

A cultural historian by training, I am a faculty member in the graduate programs in Humanities and History at York University and an associate librarian in the Scott Research and Collections Department. In the latter role I am responsible for collection development in humanities, classical studies, and religious studies. I am also President of the Canadian Society of Church History.

My current research interests lie mostly at the intersections of religion and print culture. I am also interested in the expression of religious values and themes in literature. Although these two agendas are quite distinct in focus and method, most of my published work is marked by a common preoccupation with religion and the nature of things: the human soul as a thing; literary representations of being and goodness; and, more recently, the relationship between religion and material culture.

At the moment, my main research project is a book titled A Reading People: Print Culture and the Methodist Struggle for Social Respectability in Upper Canada, 1800-1850, under contract with University of Toronto Press. My most recent completed project is an edited collection of nine essays published in a special issue of the journal Mémoires du livre / Studies in Book Culture. This issue explores the close yet contested relationship between religion and the book across a broad chronological sweep and in a variety of geopolitical contexts. Individual essays shed new light on how religious communities shape and are shaped by their interaction with sacred texts, how the privileging of print has guided the development of doctrine and practice, how the textual practices of religious authors and readers have influenced the development of literature outside sacred spaces, how books grounded in specific religious traditions have been popularized in secular contexts, how religion has shaped the development of educational policies in and beyond religious settings, and even how the deployment of putatively secular texts have permitted the establishment of religious practices in public and nonsectarian contexts.


The distant baying of a hound, calling to faraway, friendly, and familiar places, provides the most beautiful proof of the immortality of the soul.

Søren Kierkegaard

Improvement makes us straight roads; but the crooked roads, without improvement, are roads of Genius.

William Blake

Civilization depends upon the vigorous pursuit of the highest values by people who are intelligent enough to know that their values are qualified by their interests and corrupted by their prejudices.

Reinhold Niebuhr

The very outside of a book has a charm to me. It is a kind of sacrament - an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace; as, indeed, what on God's earth is not?

George MacDonald

No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes than a public library.

Samuel Johnson


Offices of the Methodist Book and Publishing House at 78 King St. East in Toronto (circa 1838). Image from Centennial of Canadian Methodism (1891).


Religion and the Book. Special issue of Mémoires du livre/Studies in Book Culture. 6.2 Guest editor. Includes introduction "The End of Religion and the Death of the Book." September 2015.

Producing the Text: Production and distribution of popular editions of the Bible. New Cambridge History of the Bible. Volume IV: Modernity, Colonialism, and Their Successors. Edited by John Riches. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 49-82. With Leslie Howsam.

Brandishing Their Grey Goose Quills: The struggle to publish an official life of John Wesley, 1791-1805. Book History 17 (2014):191-220.

Anti-British in Every Sense of the Word? Methodist preachers, school libraries, and the problem of American books in Upper Canada, 1820-1860. Historical Papers of the Canadian Society of Church History (2013): 55-76.

Before the Christian Guardian: American Methodist periodicals in the Upper Canadian backwoods, 1818-1829. Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada. 49.2 (2011): 143-165.

European Bible Societies. Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception. Area editor James Deming. Vol. 3. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2011. 1086-1088.

Saving the Monsters? Images of redemption in the Gothic tales of George MacDonald. Christianity and Literature. 55.2 (2006): 245-269.*

Hermeticism and the Metaphysics of Goodness in the Novels of Charles Williams. Mythlore. 93/94 24.3/4 (2006): 5-29.

The Evolution of Joss Whedon's Vampire Mythology and the Ontology of the Soul. Slayage:  The Journal of the Whedon Studies Association. 18 5.2 (2005): 29 pars. [Link]

A Problem of Morality: Sacramentalism in the early novels of Charles Williams. Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature. 56.2 (2004): 109-127.

* Recipient of the Lionel Basney Award


"Injuring the Cause of God: John Wesley's struggle to control Methodist publishing in America, 1769-1789." Paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Historical Association, Ottawa, ON, June 2015.

"Anti-British in Every Sense of the Word? American books and the growth of Common, public, and Sunday school libraries in Upper Canada, 1827-1857." Paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Society of Church History, Victoria, BC, June 2013.

"The Making of a Saint: Battling biographers and the struggle to construct an official life of John Wesley, 1791-1805." Paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing, Dublin, Ireland, July 2012.

"Rekindling the Canada Fire: Print culture and the reconstruction of Upper Canadian Methodism after the War of 1812." Paper presented at the annual conferences of the Canadian Historical Association and the Canadian Society of Church History, Waterloo, Ontario, June 2012.

"All The World As My Parish: Transatlantic Methodism and the origin of denominational publishing in America, 1776-1812." Paper presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Book Culture, Fredericton, New Brunswick, June 2011.

"Methodist Periodicals and the Construction of Transnational Religious Identities in North America, 1818-1833." Paper presented at a joint session of the annual conferences of the Bibliographical Society of Canada and the Canadian Association for the Study of Book Culture, Montreal, Quebec, May 2010.


Canadian Association for the Study of Book Culture

Canadian Historical Association

Canadian Society of Church History

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, & Publishing

Toronto Centre for the Book

Victorian Studies Network at York


Exquisivi Dominum et exaudivit me

et ex omnibus tribulationibus meis eripuit me