Discussion Questions for Zion and the Arts

Discussion questions for William Morris’s newsletter on Marden J. Clark’s essay “Zion and the Arts”

Here are the discussion questions for the eighth email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: Zion and the Arts: What Will Really Matter?.

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. Does your vision of Zion or Utopia or any sort of ideal community in this world or heaven in the afterlife involve art? Why or why not? And how central is art to how you envision that place/state?
  2. Clark acknowledges that the Mormons of his time don’t value the arts all that much. If you’re subscribed to this newsletter, you likely find some sort of value of art–whether it’s Mormon art or not–how did you come to have that mindset or habit?
  3. Clark describes the time he is living in as an “artistic ferment” (128)? Do you think we’re currently living in a time of artistic ferment? Why or why not? What needs to be add to the mix to increase the levels of fermentation and make the results of such ferment more delicious?

Discussion Questions for The New Mormon Mysticism

Here are the discussion questions for the eighth email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: The New Mormon Mysticism.

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. Which works of Mormon (or non-Mormon) literature wrestle with these paradoxes, challenges, and strengths in a robust way?
  2. Of the concepts Clark discusses, which do you think has the most potential for fruitful dramatization in Mormon art?
  3. What other notions that could be classified under Mormon mysticism (whether new or not) do you find interesting?

Discussion Questions for We Have Our Standards (For Mormon Writers)

Here are the discussion questions for the seventh email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: We Have Our Standards (For Mormon Writers).

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. Is writing for the market really literary dishonesty? In what ways can it be dishonest and in what ways honest?
  2. What are Clark’s blind spots here? What are works/genres that he might consider dishonest that you don’t? What are works/genres that he might consider full of honesty and integrity that you think are still dishonest in one way or another? And why?
  3. Why is literary excellence so difficult to achieve and/or recognize? How could individuals and communities better support it? Is it even the right phrase for what we think we Mormon artists should strive for? Why/why not?

Discussion Questions for Science, Religion, and the Humanities

Here are the discussion questions for the sixth email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: Science, Religion, and the Humanities.

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. Clark writes that “art can bring us pain as well as comfort” (70). Are those the two primary emotions it can bring us? Are they the most important? Which other emotions can art bring us? Are those other emotions of equal, greater, or lesser value than pain and comfort and how so?
  2. What kind of darkness do you seek out in art? (Which may or may not coincide with the kind of art that is labeled as dark). Which works of art that has darkness in it have you had interesting, profound, and/or emotional experiences with?
  3. Which works (if any) of Surfiction, postmodern art, metafiction, fabulation, high modernist art, etc. do you find valuable? Which do you think would be the most likely to change Clark’s mind on the value of such art?
  4. How does reading literature affect how you read scripture?

Every Literary Work Marden J. Clark mentions in “Science, Religion, and the Humanities”

Here is the list every literary work Marden J. Clark mentions in his essay “Science, Religion, and the Humanities,” which is printed in the collection Liberating Form.

Click here for the AMV deep dive email that goes with this list

Click here for the discussion questions that go with this list

  • Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
  • “Heart of Darkness,” Joseph Conrad
  • “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” William Blake
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton
  • The Brothers Karamozov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Notes from Undergound, Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Mysterious Stranger, Mark Twain
  • Letters from Earth, Mark Twain
  • “The War Prayer,” Mark Twain
  • “To the Person Sitting in Darknes,” Mark Twain
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  • “The Turn of the Screw,” Henry James (plus “nearly all of his novels”)
  • “Apparently with no Surprise,” Emily Dickenson
  • The Castle, Franz Kafka
  • The Book of Job
  • Ash Wednesday, T. S. Eliot
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
  • Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare
  • The Oresteia, Aeschylus
  • Mourning Becomes Electra, Eugene O’Neill
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  • Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare
  • Samson Agonistes, John Milton
  • Paradise Regained, John Milton
  • “The Waste Land,” T. S. Eliot
  • Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot
  • The Odyssey, Homer
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell

Discussion Questions for The Mormon Commitment to Education

Here are the discussion questions for the third email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: The Mormon Commitment to Education.

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. What are the best educational experiences you’ve had? Have any of them come close to being like an Entmoot?
  2. What is your awareness or even memory, of the culture wars of the 1990s (Mormon-related or not)? How did you come by that awareness? What, if anything, is there to learn from how everyone engaged in/reacted to those culture wars?
  3. If you had the time and financial resources for further education, what topics, disciplines, institutions, crafts/skills, practices, types of research, etc. would you like to engage in?

Discussion Questions for Some Implications of Human Freedom

Here are the discussion questions for the third email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: Liberating Form: Some Implications of Human Freedom.

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. What is gained and lost by believing in a God who is not absolute?
  2. What are your favorite works of art that explore notions of freedom, human agency, etc.?
  3. What does divine discontent mean to you? Is it as useful as Clark suggest? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions for Art, Religion, and the Market Place

Here are the discussion questions for the third email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: Liberating Form: Art, Religion, Marketplace.

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. What positive things does religion bring into your life that art hasn’t? What positive things does art bring into your life that religion hasn’t?
  2. A lot of the examples Clark uses are works that are explicitly religions, or at least moral. What’s your favorite work of art that is overtly religious? What’s your favorite work of art that religious folks, and especially Mormons, might find heretical and/or distasteful?
  3. Which works of art do you find valuable that exist because of the market place (and wouldn’t have been able to be created without it)? The market place can definitely can distort art. Are there ways in which it can shape it and make it better? And is the market place really the main evil or are there other villains to point more strongly at (authoritarianism would definitely be one, in my book)?
  4. And the big one: what are the potential pitfalls in re-merging art and religion? What are the potential triumphs that could result? What work could be done to help bring about such a re-merger?

Discussion Questions for the Title Essay of Liberating Form

Here are the discussion questions for the second email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: Liberating Form: The Title Essay.

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. Which literary or artistic or craft forms do you find particularly liberating and/or interesting? Are there ones that leave you cold? Which specific works of art do you think are particularly good at investing form with so much energy that the resulting work feels liberating to you?
  2. What do you think about the use of both personal anecdote and literary analysis in an essay? Are there other examples of essay that successfully combine both that you’d like to recommend? Or not recommend?
  3. How do you know when a form is or isn’t working for you? Given that this site is about Mormon art, I’m less interested in whether or not the LDS Church (or other Mormon denomination) is true or not, or working or not, or toxic or not, and more interested in practices related to creating and/or consuming art, literature, craft, and anything else you learn from and find beauty in.

Discussion Questions for the “Foreword” of Liberating Form

Here are the discussion questions for the first email in the AMV Deep Dive of Marden J. Clark’s essay collection Liberating Form.

If you haven’t signed up for the email, you can read it (and sign up to receive future ones) here: Liberating Form: Deep Dive on the Foreword

Please note that comments are moderated, and the goal is to make this a place welcome to Mormons of all stripes (as well as folks with an interest in Mormonism).

  1. In what ways are the tensions you experience—whether they come out of your love of humanities or your Mormonism or other vectors of identity, modes of thought and being—delicate, exasperating, complex, and/or challenging? What is the value in acknowledging those specific qualities of the tensions you experience?
  2. Have you found specific poems and poetic images useful to your thinking on art, religion, society, life? Which ones and in what ways do they help?
  3. In what ways do you find art and culture nourishing and stimulating? What existing communities provide you with intellectual and/or religious stimulation and nourishment? What communities do you wish existed to provide you with more, different, or better stimulation and nourishment?