Was literature an afterthought for early Mormons? Looking at the first few years of Mormonism, I get the idea that for most church members it was. For the first few years poetry was the only literary work published (except for scripture and perhaps some sermons, although I don’t want to include these as literary for this analysis) and poetry was initially intended for the hymnal. When the first LDS hymnal was published in 1835, that emphasis waned, and even the LDS periodicals published fewer poems. After the initial burst of activity, 1836, 1837 and 1838 weren’t very fertile years for Mormon literature.
Poetry month is almost over, and I’ve somehow managed to finish my compilation of poetry by Mormons in print at the last moment. This is the fifth listing I’ve prepared, and once again I think I’ve got most Mormon poets. But, undoubtedly, there will be others that I’ve missed. Please let me know who I’ve missed.
I’m always fascinated by the appearance of old and somewhat obscure books among what gets cited in General Conference talks. Except for in conference, I’ve never heard of works like McCulloch’s Home: the Savior of Civilization (1924) or Blatchford’s More Things in Heaven and Earth (1925). Nor would I have realized that someone named Elbert Hubbard had compiled so many volumes of quotations and stories, most under the title Little Journeys“¦
It is sometimes hard to get a sense of how much is going on in Mormon literary studies. The problem is that there is a lot going on that isn’t happening in Utah or among those associated with the Association for Mormon Letters. I’m not suggesting that the AML and what is happening in Utah isn’t valuable, just that some subjects attract others.
In counterpoint to Andrew Hall’s now 12-year-old annual review of Mormon Literature[fn1] (the first part of the latest edition appeared last week), I thought it might give some perspective to look at what Mormon Literature looked like 100 years ago. Boy have we come a long way!!
Unfortunately, I was only able to look at the books published in 1912, not items in periodicals, because the periodicals aren’t available online, except for a few cases[fn2]. The periodicals also require significantly more work to pull out the literary items. I hope to get through many of the periodicals sometime this year — and if I do this again next year, I’ll try to include periodicals from the start.
Poetry, poetry everywhere, but not a word by a Mormon. Or, at least, that’s what you might think from the list below. During this recent General Conference speakers cited six books of poetry, half of them obscure works to most English speakers (despite Elder Packer’s claim to the contrary) and none of them works by LDS writers.
After four years of preparing this bibliography of poetry by Mormons in print for National Poetry Month, I thought I might have discovered most of the poets and books out there. However, this year I’ve discovered several more that I missed, and began the process of looking back through the Mormon journals to see who I may have missed.
Looking at the books and outside materials cited in conference really highlights the unusual talks. Again a speaker referred to the story told in a recent film, but cited the book the film was based on. More unusual, one speaker cited an evangelical book about sharing the gospel and another cited two articles and a study widely discussed on the bloggernacle. Overall, the number of items remained the same, while the citations shifted from books to other items, mostly websites.
You probably know Ben Crowder as the Editor-in-Chief of Mormon Artist magazine. But Ben is the kind of guy who always has several projects going on at one time, and I thought that one of them that he is actively working on right now — the Mormon Texts Project — would be of interest to AMV’s readers.
Could you briefly describe the Mormon Texts Project for our readers who may not have heard of it?
The goal of the Mormon Texts Project is to make out-of-copyright Mormon books available for free online, specifically in plain text through Project Gutenberg. (We chose Project Gutenberg because it’s been around for a long time and has a lot of reach.)
You are actively looking for volunteers to help with MTP. Do volunteers need to have major tech skills to help? What do they need to do/know/have?
Only basic tech skills are needed — the majority of the work our volunteers do consists of comparing a page of text to the corresponding page image, fixing formatting problems according to our MTP guidelines. An eye for detail helps, of course. Volunteers can do this on pretty much any kind of computer. (In the past we’ve emailed out the page images and page text, but we’re in the middle of switching to a web app.) Continue reading “Ben Crowder on the Mormon Texts Project”
2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review
By Andrew Hall
Part 2: The Mormon Market
Wm notes: portions of this bibliographic review rely on comments from sources who have chosen to remain anonymous. As I said with his report on independent Mormon publishers posted here at AMV last July: I’m personally confident that Andrew has used his anonymous sources judiciously and within standard journalistic practices. But also keep in mind that the comments here represent particular points of view.
(Note: I am now posting at Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog of the Association for Mormon Letters, a weekly column covering the world of Mormon literature. The focus is on published fiction, but I also cover theater and film. I also link to recently published literary works, news, and reviews. I hope to make the brief column a convenient gathering place for authors and readers to announce and follow news about the field each week.)
In this section, I will look at the Mormon fiction market by analysing recent trends, introducing each publisher, noting books that have received especially strong reviews, and noting the passing of a beloved author.
Despite the troubled economy, the number of literary works published by Mormon market publishers rose considerably in 2010. This was despite the fact that the publishers owned by the Church’s Deseret Media Companies, Deseret Book Publishing and Covenant Communications, stood pat on their annual output. The rise was due largely to an increase in the number of fiction works published by independent publishers Cedar Fort, Leatherwood, and Valor. Publishers report, however, that the book-selling economy remained stagnant in 2010, which means that more authors and more books crowded into the market, increasing the competition for market share. Continue reading “Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: Mormon Market”