The annual cost of Mormon literary studies

Wm outlines the costs of engaging in Mormon literary studies.

Kent’s latest reminded me that I have been meaning to do a cost of Mormon literary studies post for some time.

This post assumes three things, which I think are warranted for much of the AMV readership:

  1. You don’t have an academic budget to pay for some of these things.
  2. You actually want to own the works so that you can spend time with them and produce literary criticism/get deep knowledge of the field (which means relying heavily on the local library isn’t an option).
  3. You don’t live within commute distance of the Wasatch Front.

The Minimum:

Irreantum Subscription/AML membership: $25

Dialogue E-Subscription: $25

Every Title That Zarahemla Books Published This Year: $50 (three titles at around $16 each*)

One Major Anthology (likely from Peculiar Pages): $25

One Other Major Mormon-Themed Work: $15

One Major Mormon-Themed Work of Nonfiction (People of Paradox, for example): $20

Subtotal = $140

* If you can go with e-editions of these then that drops to $10.

Expanded Version:

Segullah Subscription: $12

BYU Studies E-Subscription: $24

Sunstone Subscription: $45

Exponent II Subscription: $28

5 Novels Likely to Be Whitney Finalists/Winners: $80 (these could be Mormon-themed or not, but I think in order to really work in the field, you should be aware of at least, say, the Mistborn series or Shannon Hale’s latest work, etc. This number could, obviously, go much higher.)

Filling Out Your Library: $30 (three titles at around $10 each with things like Salvador or Benediction and other stories, etc. [unless you live near an awesome DI])

The Best American Short Stories: $15 (or a similar title so you have some comparison to what’s happening with the Mormon short story)

Total = $374

Total + AML Conference Attendance (flight/gas money + hotel/meals — assume very modest budget of $500 total): $874

Finally, of course, there’s the cost in time to read all that, synthesize it, and write about it. And if you go to a Sunstone conference or the Rocky Mountain MLA meeting, etc., your costs will rise fairly dramatically.

16 thoughts on “The annual cost of Mormon literary studies”

  1. I really appreciate this, Wm; I think it’s valuable to note. People don’t often think about some of the costs associated with being an artist. I’m constantly arguing with students who don’t want to see shows at other schools, or even purchase theatre tickets at all. If you’re serious about your art, you need to invest not only in what is required to create yours, but in seeing and experiencing what is happening in the field. I go to shows all the time, and I read all the time, because I know I need to. I’m a little afraid to do the math and figure out how much I’ve spent on media over the past year.

  2. Thanks, Mel.

    And this doesn’t even include theater and film. If you live along the Wasatch Front, you should be probably be attending at least 2-3 plays a year. Plus the LDS Film Festival.

  3. From my perspective, this doesn’t seem terribly expensive. Less than $500 a year? Compared to other professions this is nothing. Even compared to publishing on the national level, this is nothing.

    But, I do have to ask, Mel, are there 2-3 plays being performed each month? Not being on the Wasatch Front, I really have no idea. I somehow don’t hear about them.

  4. .

    [Note: Oh. I thought you were finally doing your post on the $30 million dollars you need to start a foundation. That said….]


    Here’s what I spent in 2011. Not including a number of nonLDS books, but including some other nonLDS things. Also not including my Sunstone subscription which has about 8 years left on it. I let my Dialogue paperless lapse. I just wasn’t reading it, sadly. I need it on paper and I just didn’t put up the money.


    Blammo #7: 6.50
    iZombie 1,2,3: 7.88, 9.87
    Low’s C’mon: 3.99
    Haun’s Mill’s album: 12.00
    What of the Night?: 14.95
    The Death of a Disco Dancer: 17.95
    Dancing Naked by Robert Van Wagoner: 4.41 (which, incidentally, I bought because of an excellent short story of his I read online, in an old Dialogue pdf. . . . great mostly-fiction [or about fiction] issue)
    Exponent II book: 12.75
    Gravity vs the Girl: 18.23

    Literary periodicals:
    Tin House 24.95
    One Story 18.00
    Irreantum 25.00
    Irreantum 65.00 (I panic now and then and renew when I don’t need to.)
    One Story 5.00

    Donation to Duotrope: 10.00

    Donation to The Student Review: 1.00

    Sunstone West Convention: 70.00 (includes my wife’s ticket)

    Ben Abbott’s play: 18.00 (includes my wife)

  5. Ah. I should do that post too, Th.

    I should add that the only money I’ve made from this is $80 or something like for the AML Award AMV received. And then about $120 from t-shirt sales and Amazon Associates referral fees (back when we were doing that). All of that money went in to paying for the hosting costs for AMV, WIZ, etc. which are $104 a year.

  6. Incidentally, if the T-shirt design had been a little higher on the shirt, I would have bought one. (Some of us ladies don’t like T-shirts with writing or images that fall squarely in the middle of our chests, for reasons you can probably imagine.)

    Of course, I suppose I should have mentioned this when you were still selling the T-shirts . . .

  7. Sorry, Kent — I was unclear. I do see several shows per month, but that’s theatre in general. So far this year I’ve only seen one show that is specifically LDS in its content because there just haven’t been that many going up. Theatre companies along the Wasatch Front emphasize LDS ideals, but not necessarily LDS stories.

  8. Katya:

    The t-shirts are actually still for sale. When I get some time, I’ll adjust the graphic placement.


    I don’t know for sure. I imagine they came from the membership dues. I don’t think the cost to print Irreantum was as much back then.

  9. Of course, the biggie is time.

    What I’ve recorded below isn’t an accurate estimate of my own time, since I don’t do as much in some of these categories. But this is what I feel would really be needed to stay up to snuff in Mormon letters.

    I figure that in order to be au courant with what’s going on in Mormon letters, there are probably between 5-10 blogs one should be following religiously, with AMV and the AML blog at the top of the list. And commenting on. Unless y’all are much faster than I am, that’s at least 5 hours a week. So 250 hours a year.

    Let’s say that in order to stay up-to-date with Mormon letters you need to read all 35 Whitney finalists, plus another 15 books a year. Estimate 4 hours a book. Total: another 200 hours.

    There are probably enough classics of Mormon lit I haven’t read that I should be trying to knock off 10 a year. So make that another 40 hours.

    Short stories and personal essays from magazines and other non-blog sources: say, 30 a year? I’m going to call this an hour per story or essay, even though a lot of them are much shorter. Total: another 30 hours.

    3 plays or movies a year, two hours each (counting travel time and logistics): 6 hours. (This, obviously, is for someone not specializing in drama).

    Add another 25 books that should be read in the general world of fiction to know what’s going on, and throw in all the short fiction etc. So another 100 hours.

    Then there’s the writing. I would say that active involvement requires the equivalent of, say, 2 full reviews and 2 scholarly articles a year. For me, 30 hours for writing a scholarly article is doing pretty well. Likewise 5 hours for a worthwhile review. So another 70 hours.

    And I should be spending at least 100 hours a year reading general literary criticism, just to keep sharp enough with the tools to be able to write something worthwhile.

    I’ll throw in the “service” hours: helping to run AML, the AML website, Whitney awards, editing, reading and reviewing manuscripts, or whatever your particular vice, though that tends to count for a lot for most of us.

    I’m also not counting time spent writing creatively, since that’s a different area of endeavor. That fact that most of us with an interest in Mormon literary scholarship also have creative aspirations can only be counted as another competing priority.

    So for a well-informed amateur Mormon literary scholar, that comes to… hm… just shy of 800 hours. That’s more than 15 hours a week. And a lot of it is prime intellectual time: the “best efforts” that we should be giving to our jobs, families, etc.

    Which is why none of us is actually doing this much. And why, in order for Mormon academic scholarship to truly go forward, it needs not just the amateurs but some people with real academic positions whose institutions recognize Mormon studies as part of what they’re supposed to be doing with their time.

  10. And then you come from overseas like me, and you get to add international shipping and/or transatlantic flights to everything. If things are even available for purchase.

    I have to say, I do have the luxury of having a government-funded scholarship for my PhD in Mormon studies. Apparently the German government found the field important enough to grant me the scholarship over other people (no idea what their projects were). So for the next three years I can read as much Mormon lit as I want. And make sure my department hears about Mormons every so often.

  11. That’s awesome, Saskia. You should hang out with Angel Chaparro Sáinz sometime — he’s another non-LDS scholar living in Europe who has written on Mormonism.

    Also: I read the about page on your blog. I too greatly miss the Berkeley library. In fact, one of the stories I’ll likely be writing sometime in the next year starts out there.

  12. .

    At the risk of quoting scripture, the fact that Europe seems to be more open to supporting Mormon studies suggest a prophet gets no respect in his own home town.

    (ps for Saskia: may we hear from you often)

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