It seems to me that Mormon literature as a field is difficult to approach. Unless you are one of the few who have the chance to take the Mo-lit class at BYU, there’s no real easy way to get an overview of the field. This makes it difficult to enter into the conversations that happen here and at Dawning of a Brighter Day and elsewhere. Some of these conversations have been going on for a long time, and it’s hard to know how and where and when to jump in. I aim to change that in a low-key, non-scholarly way.
Here’s the plan:
I am going to write The AMV Guide to Mormon Literature. I’m going to do so by writing short entries on a variety of topics in Scrivener, which is a fantastic tool for dealing with lots of information and allows one to easily output writing in a variety of forms. I will post each entry as it is complete to AMV and ask for feedback. I’ll then do a brief edit of the entry based on the feedback and move on to the next topic. When I hit the point where I’ve covered everything that needs to be covered (with the caveat, of course, that there could always be more), I will then compile the whole set of entries in Scrivener, add a simple cover, and publish the complete guide as an ebook which I will then offer for sale through the standard channels. Profits from the sale of the book will go to pay for web hosting for AMV, Wilderness Interface Zone and LDS Cinema Online.
While this guide will be my (personal) voice, my (radical-middle) concerns, and my (idiosyncratic) perspective, I will also welcome feedback on each entry that I post. Anyone who provides it will be added to a list of co-conspirators that will be published at the back of the book.
The guide will be in three parts. Part I: Concepts will cover the theoretical and historical ground of the field. The chapters in this part will be History, Ecosystem, Critical Approaches, Disputes & Controversies, Core Concepts.
Part II: Entities will deal with the key individuals and organizations one should be aware of. The three chapters in this part will be Publishers, Authors and Critics. Publishers will include journals, blogs, organizations like the Association for Mormon Letters, book publishers–any platform that regularly deals in Mormon lit.
Part III: Works will focus on key works in the field–those works that are most important, most representative, or most interesting to the project of Mormon literature. I suppose it will be somewhat an attempt at canon formation, but I aim to be non-authoritative and subjective about it. The chapters will be Novels, Short Stories (this will include collections), Plays, Films, Creative Nonfiction, and Criticism. I may ask for some help with choosing this list of works, but because this could easily grow out of control and is such a matter of taste, I will likely ask for less feedback on this part than the others.
Oh, and I will not be going in any particular order with my posts to AMV. I’ll be jumping around all over the place as inspiration and interest grab me.
The first order of business and first chance to make the list of co-conspirators (or whatever I end up calling it) is to help me firm up the chapters in Part I. I’m confident about how to organize Part II and Part III, but Part I is proving to be the most difficult to wrap my head around. It’s also what will provide the most value to readers, I think.
So here’s my question: what should be added, deleted or re-named?
Let me explain each in a bit more detail:
1. History will provide brief overviews of each of the main periods of Mormon literature. I will have obvious entries like “Home Literature”, “Mormons in Pulp Fiction” and “The Lost Generation”, but then I’m going to tackle the post-blooming of Mo-lit as a modern field by decade: “The 1960s/70s”, The 1980s”, “The 1990s” and “The 2000s”. I will also discuss Eugene England’s approach to Mormon literary history. I may add more entries–this is just to give you an idea of how I plan to approach it.
2. Ecosystem will deal with the key areas or camps or epistemes or discourses or whatever you want to call them. It’s here that we’ll deal with LDS fiction; Mormon fiction; SF&F; YA; the Mormon publishing market; etc.
3. Critical Approaches will cover various ways that critics have reviewed/approached Mormon works and key issues in the field.
4. Disputes & Controversies is exactly what it sounds like.
5. Finally, Core Concepts (I’d like a different name for this) will be my attempt to lay out some of the key abstract concepts that pop up as themes in works of Mormon literature and discussions about the field. Entries will include things like Agency, Inspiration, Pre-Mortal Life and Appropriateness.