Ryan Harper’s scholarship and teaching revolve around American religious history and culture, with a special focus on contemporary American Christianity and the arts. His first book The Gaithers and Southern Gospel: Homecoming in the Twenty First Century (University Press of Mississippi, 2017) is an ethnography of gospel singer-songwriters Bill and Gloria Gaither and their Homecoming video and concert series. Ryan is in the early research stages of his second major project—a study of American Christians’ interest in the production and consumption of creative writing, focusing on Post-Vatican II aesthetic exchanges and encounters between evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians. In both projects, Ryan is interested in what varieties of theological, racial, and sexual identities collide and collude in Christian art worlds—and what identities are formed as a result. A poet himself, Ryan's full full-length collection, My Beloved Had a Vineyard, won the 2017 Prize American in Poetry and is available via the Poetry Press of Press Americana (April 2018).
Before coming to New York University, Ryan taught at Swarthmore College, Princeton University, and Presbyterian College (South Carolina). He has offered courses on African-American religions, American evangelicalism, Christian history and ethics, theories and methods in the study of religion, and religion in/as American literature.