Earlier today Margaret Young shared on her Facebook page that Richard H. Cracroft , Emeritus Professor of English at Brigham Young University, died yesterday evening. He was 76*.
For a brief biography and fairly comprehensive bibliography, I recommend his Mormon Literature Database entry.
There will be remembrances posted in the coming days from those who knew Prof. Cracroft. I never met him. But I know his work well and would like to pay tribute to him by talking about that relationship.
The landmark anthology A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day Saints, which he put together along with Neal Lambert was one of my first introductions to Mormon literature. The two pieces of criticism of his posted on the Mormon literature website (which Gideon Burton created right before I became aware of Mormon literature as a field and which, along with the AML-List, became my introduction it) along with the other responses to it (something which I call the Mormon literaturstreit) is the key conversation that drew me into my ongoing process of engagement with what is, what should be and what we should say about Mormon literature.
Prof. Cracroft introduced several generations of young, talented BYU students to Mormon literature, especially Mormon fiction, quite a few of whom are now our best writers of fiction, poetry, criticism, personal essay and reviews. Through his long-running BYU Magazine column, he popularized Mormon-themed fiction and non-Mormon-themed work by LDS writers to the LDS audience.
We as a field owe him an immense debt.
I, personally, am most grateful for his often prickly, yet always well-articulated call for fiction that speaks to believing, practicing, modern, culturally orthodox Latter-day Saints. Fiction that expresses, as he states in his landmark AML presidential address, the Mantic Mormon worldview. I have been grappling with that speech for almost 15 years now. It informs much of my own championing of the radical middle. I don’t agree with everything Prof. Cracroft has said on the topic. But I find myself unwilling and unable to dismiss his opinions. He was and will continue to be a crucial, major voice in the field of Mormon literature. He is and will be greatly missed.
Fare thee well, Brother Cracroft. I’d love to listen in on the conversations you will soon be having with Brother Whitney and Sister Wells (and Brother England and Sister Snow).
*Or possibly 77. I have only been able to find his birth year.