Where Twilight Studies Meets Mormon Studies: Setting the Record Straight

Some time ago, I started following John Granger‘s Twilight studies blog, “Forks High School Professor” as a corollary to my own academic interest in Meyer’s books. Granger made a name for himself as Dean of Harry Potter Studies when he took J.K. Rowling’s books as subjects worthy of academic study. And now he’s trying his hand at Twilight, an effort I heartily applaud as I think of my own haphazard attempts to do the same thing.

And yet, sometimes he just rubs my believing-Mormon-skin the wrong way with his cursory engagement with Mormonism, something that’s simply secondary to and arising from his academic interest in literature, faith, and culture. Since he’s a newcomer to the still-blossoming field of Mormon studies* and an outsider to the LDS faith, I can’t fault him for this engagement and for getting some things wrong every now and then. Heck, cultural Mormons are a peculiar lot with an equally peculiar history. Putting things together about the religion can be difficult even for those with a lifetime commitment to it. Continue reading “Where Twilight Studies Meets Mormon Studies: Setting the Record Straight”

Lance Larsen: The Great Mormon Poet?

I don’t want to steal Jonathan’s thunder, but I just came across something interesting and couldn’t contain myself. Darn poets!

There’s been a lot of talk in the past about the Great Mormon Novel, but we don’t hear much—if anything—about the Great Mormon Poet (or Mormon poetry or poetry in general, for that matter). I’ve accepted the fact that I’m practitioner of an art that’s fallen on hard times, if it was ever not on hard times, that is, but I’m doing my best to work that system and to broaden the (Mormon) audience for poetry in whatever nominal way I can—a task I find as necessary as love.

Hence, I’ve decided (finally!) to do my dissertation (pending approval) on the poetry/poetics of Lance Larsen. Of all the verse I’ve read over the past however many years, his has stuck with me most. It doesn’t wallow in the postmodern condition, doesn’t refuse tradition and values and the strength of community (especially the family). It doesn’t flounder in self-pity over the failures of language (though Larsen is aware of that trend) and, by extension, it’s not mere wordplay. On the other hand, it doesn’t reach for some type of transcendence beyond this world, refusing to engage the ordinary, the mundane, the familiar in some attempt to move beyond the immediate. Rather, it’s firmly rooted in mortality, in the family, in the possibilities of communities and the “small disturbances” that cumulatively make up a life and that bind humans of all stripes in lasting connections, including those made possible through language.

As I see it, the strength of Larsen’s poetry makes him one of Mormonism’s best—if not the best poet currently writing in/from the Mormon tradition. And though he doesn’t specifically write for a Mormon audience, his Mormonism permeates and grounds his verse in, dare I say it?, hope for a better world. That and he can turn a beautiful, even sublime, line, something that places him among America’s best poets (as I’ve just discovered, though the preceding link’s a month old; hence this quick post).

And that, I think, is an achievement worth mentioning, even applauding, on AMV.

“Toward a Mormon Gothic” and Other News from RUD

News from the Reading Until Dawn front:

A couple of weeks ago, I read a paper at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (RMMLA) Convention at Snowbird, Utah (a rundown of my experience at the AML session will come in a later post that I’ve got halfway worked up; yes, I’ve been lazy—so sue me) and over the weekend I did some revising to incorporate some of the feedback I received and posted it on Reading Until Dawn. “Toward a Mormon Gothic: Stephenie Meyer’s Vampires and a Theology of the Uncanny” takes its place in the blossoming field of Twilight studies beside RUD’s inaugural essay, Theric Jepson’s “Saturday’s Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Novels.” Link over and have a read. That’s what all the cool kids are doing (or so they tell me).

While you’re there, you might also notice that I’ve made some subtle changes to the site design (I’ve tweaked the header) and that I’ve updated the articles. The inconsistent layout was bugging me, so I took down the HTMLs until I can get them to look how I want them to look, reworked my document template slightly, and incorporated the new MLA citation standards into the notes. Hopefully this gives the collection a more consistent and professional feel.

Also: though I’ve published “Toward a Mormon Gothic” on RUD, I’m still open to feedback. So if, while you’re reading, you notice a typo or some such faux pas or notice that I’ve missed something you deem vitally important to the conversation, either email me or comment here. That or work up your own essay and submit it for publication. I promise I won’t complain.

After the House Fell Silent

Of Speaking the Truth, Scapegoats, and Absorbing the Rhetoric of Blame
(A Review Essay of Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter)

Author(s): Melissa G. Moore with M. Bridget Cook
Publisher: Self-published through Cedar Fort, Inc. (Springville, UT)
Release date: 8 September 2009

I. Speaking the Truth

I must begin this review essay, which I had great difficulty writing (for reasons that I hope become clear in my rhetorical wanderings), with a series of caveats, beginning here: I make no claims to represent the literary conscience of America or, for that matter, of Mormo-America–neither do I feel the need to make such claims, simply because I don’t believe I represent the mainstream American/Mormo-American literary consciousness or even, perhaps, that there is such a mainstream way of reading and thinking about the world. As a poet first, I’m attracted to language that, among other things, is lyrical, visceral, and deeply honest to human experience; that draws me toward deeper connection with my inner self/ves, with others, and with God. In short, I like words and combinations of words that cut to the quick, that don’t simply affirm my version of reality (though sometimes that’s nice, too), but that disrupt it, that persuade me to reevaluate what I know–or think I know–about myself and the moral universe I inhabit. Continue reading “After the House Fell Silent”

Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Of Mice and Pizza

Since I’ve been thinking more lately about responsible rhetoric and what my language does once it leaves my mind and my mouth, I’ve noticed a number of Mormon cultural instances in which language has been used by leaders/teachers in what I consider reckless ways. Hence this series of Airing the Rhetorical Laundry posts, which I never intended to become a series (though who knows how long it will actually last) and which have become brief explorations of moments in LDS culture where I think language has been manipulated (knowingly or not) by individuals or groups of saints in their attempts to persuade fellow laborers to greater faithfulness.

Today, I’m taking on the faulty analogies often used to convince people away from movies or books that may be good, “except for one little part.” Notice, first off, that I don’t intend to deal with the idea of keeping our entertainment clean or with the varying degrees of readerly sensitivity, i.e., individuals’ varying capacities to endure evil in the fictions they frequent. (So keep that in mind in the comments, if you will.) Rather, I’m approaching the language itself and intend to judge its merits in purely rhetorical terms–that is, I’m more concerned with what work the language is actually doing than with what it’s intended to do* or with whether or not we should watch this movie or read that book because of this steamy scene or that profane word. Continue reading “Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Of Mice and Pizza”

Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Breaking through the Administrative Rhetoric

I’m teaching the Elders’ quorum this Sunday coming and the phrase I keep returning to in my pondering is “watch over, be with, and strengthen” (ref). In context, of course, this phrase refers to the teacher’s duty, as an ordained member of the Aaronic Priesthood, to build and sustain the Church, to help hold the body of Christ together, by keeping the senses trained on its members and by reminding the Saints, in word and deed, to do their communal duty. While this may seem a heady chore to heap onto a fourteen- to fifteen-year old boy, this principle’s use as the foundation for the home and visiting teaching programs extends its reach beyond the Aaronic Priesthood holder’s ken into a supporting fixture of full and vigilant fellowship with the Saints. Continue reading “Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Breaking through the Administrative Rhetoric”

Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Some Thoughts On Mormon Oration and Audience

I took this out for a test run on my blog a couple of weeks ago, but thought it could bear repeating here because I’m interested in your thoughts. And I’ve got some more musings on Mormon rhetoric I’m planning to post tomorrow (due to their time sensitive nature—you’ll see), so stay tuned.

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I just finished a delightful (yes, I said “delightful”) little essay in the Spring 2006 issue of Dialogue: “Mormon Laundry List“ by Julianna Gardner Berry.* Berry speaks about what I’ve come to call the Mormon Rhetorical Problem**: Despite our expansive theological witness that “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth“ and that humans are beings of eternal intelligence, co-existent with God and heirs to eternal glory, much of our language seems to betray a lack of faith in that ideal. Continue reading “Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Some Thoughts On Mormon Oration and Audience”

“God, Forgive My Pen”; or, I’m Sorry I Missed You, Gene

Although I was born and raised a Wasatch Front Latter-day Saint and was baptized early on in the sea of Mormon culture, I didn’t begin to test these deeply ethnic waters until Eugene England’s intellectual specter called me from the comfort of my newly christened craft to join him in the waves. It happened something like this: A number of years ago, shortly after submitting to a growing passion for words, I was surfing our new internet connection, searching for an entrance into Mormon literature when I serendipitously crashed into the Association for Mormon Letter’s website and found myself, moments later, somehow caught in Dialogue‘s current of back issues (an interesting feat since Dialogue isn’t officially connected with the AML).

Impressed that the best place to start something is usually (though not always) the beginning, I linked to “Volume 01, Number 1, Spring 1966,” then to “Contents.” Having embraced Eugene and his piercing insights and rhetoric after finding “Mormon Literature: Progress and Prospects“ on the Mormon Literature Database a few months earlier, I was especially drawn to his short essay, “The Possibility of Dialogue,” and to his poem, “The Firegiver.” Deciding it best to begin at the end this time, I’d linked to the poem, read it, and laughed, first off, at the interplay it illustrates between a curious and gifted child and the all-knowing, merciful, and just Parent, Muse, and Mentor he seeks to please; then at how perfectly his language captured (and still captures) the subtle tugs and pulls of my own nascent intellectual discipleship. Continue reading ““God, Forgive My Pen”; or, I’m Sorry I Missed You, Gene”

Re: The Fob Family Bible, Part II

Note: This is the final part of my review of The Fob Bible, which I began here last week. This part picks up where I left off, which was here:

Within the Mormon context of The Fob Bible, the (pro)creative movement of these “opposite equal” spheres further implies the eternal (pro)creative influence of both male and female Deities over the universe. For if we have a Father in Heaven and if, as Eliza R. Snow reminds us, “truth is reason, [then] truth eternal / Tells me I’ve a Mother there” and that she’s doing more than merely keeping House. Rather, as Nelson’s variation on this theme suggests, she, as represented in the creative power of the moon (which here “lift[s] land” from the earth’s watery void, “set[s] the rain in silver sheets / upon the ocean’s stormy streets,” and places “birds in flight” and fish in the sea) and as the feminine coeval with God the Father, is an active participant in the eternal, reiterative round of creation, a circling “dance” that is more productive of all that is “good,” beautiful, and holy than many of us may care to–or even, at present, can–imagine. Continue reading “Re: The Fob Family Bible, Part II”

Re: The Fob Family Bible (Part I)

Note: While some may consider it a conflict of interest to post a review of a book edited by one of AMV’s contributors on AMV, to you I say, “Blogging is all about the art of self-service and self-promotion. So I’m reviewing The Fob Bible (published May 2009 by Peculiar Pages and edited by Eric W Jepson, et al) here as a public service whether you like it or not. And I say that with all the kindness I can muster.”

 

Part I appears today and I’ll post part II next week.

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Re: The Fob Family Bible, Part I: Introduction and The First Four Fobnesses

I’ve got two family Bibles on my bookshelf: one nearly brand-new two-volume set from Bookcraft/Deseret Book–The Old and New Testaments for Latter-day Saint Families (Salt Lake City, 2005 and 1998 respectively); and one unwieldy, second-hand volume from Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc. (Nashville, 1980s)–The Holy Bible Family Altar Edition. These were intended, I believe, as coffee table volumes, books meant to be points of gathering, conversation, and communion between family members, their communities, and their God. Such creation of communal understanding is enhanced, the editors of all three volumes imply, with the editorial apparatus–the study helps–built into each text: among other things, the glossaries, the book and chapter introductions, the topic headings, the colored words that highlight important aspects of the text, and the footnotes that include cross references and scriptural commentary. According to the editors of the scriptures for Latter-day Saint Families series, these helps are “designed especially” to “help [“¦ us] read, understand, and think about [“¦ the scriptures] in exciting new ways”1–ways that will lead us, presumably, to become as God is, the central and defining focus of LDS theology. Continue reading “Re: The Fob Family Bible (Part I)”