Is the Demand for Mormon Literature Classes Increasing?

I’ve been following Margaret Young’s plans to teach the “Literature of the Latter-day Saints” class at BYU this coming semester, and I was pleased to see that she has posted her reading list for the course on her blog, and plans to post “parts of the class” on her blog also. I even suggested to my BYU student daughter that she take the class.

Nope. That won’t work. In addition to the students who have grabbed one of the 30 seats for the class, there is a waiting list of 63 (as of this morning).

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #83: Orson F. Whitney on sincerity and oratory

OFWhitneyPerhaps the most widespread literary art practiced among Mormons is oratory. The three or four weekly sermons given in every LDS congregation, usually by members of that congregation, sum to a formidable amount of practice at public speaking. And while the average active member may speak in church once every few years, local leaders certainly get plenty of practice. I don’t know if prayer should be considered a literary art or not, but if not, then oratory is likely our most commonly used art form.

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #82: Orson F. Whitney on what makes a poet

OFWhitneyWhile perhaps not as important a question as “what is poetry,” the question “what is a poet” is at least a significant part of the former question, if not an independent question. And when Orson F. Whitney defines a poet as a prophet, the definition might seem to be complete. But he sees something more than a simple association with a prophet. To Whitney, both prophets and poets are not made. To put it in familiar Mormon parlance: poets (and prophets) are foreordained to so be. They must be born with the spirit of poesy.

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #81: Orson F. Whitney on the Essence of Poetry

OFWhitneyTo a large extent, theory is definition. A theory of literature is therefore definition of its many elements and how they work together to allow the creation of literature. And as far as I can tell, before Orson F. Whitney, few Mormons attempted anything near a theory of literature. A few definitions of elements of literature appeared here and there, but no one covered as many elements of literature as Whitney.

In the following extract, also from the 5-part article he published in 1926, Whitney discusses poetry, and after rejecting  a common definition, he provides his own:

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Looking for Mormon Eggcorns

One of my favorite language sites is the “Eggcorn database,” a compilation of a certain kind of spelling error in which a word or phrase is transformed into another that sounds the same, but has a different meaning. The name “eggcorn” comes from a misspelling of “acorn,” but the misspelling is logical semantically — an acorn vaguely resembles an egg, and is a seed like corn, so it could well be called an “eggcorn.”

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #80: Orson F. Whitney on Poetry and Oratory

OFWhitneyWhen Mormon Literature folk think of Orson F. Whitney, it is usually in regard to his 1886 talk that predicted that Mormonism would yet have “Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” But in 1926, after two decades as an Apostle, Whitney was still writing about literature and the role it would play in Mormonism. That year Whitney penned a five-part article for the Improvement Era in which he explored the question of literature and Mormonism, and in doing so came closer than any previous author to a Mormon theory of literature.

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #79: Joseph J. Cannon on Why the M.I.A. did Drama

Where should literature fit in our priorities? Is it more important to preach the gospel than put on a play? Is culture worth time away from service? While its probably not that simple–one of these things doesn’t necessarily take away from another–still our Mormon culture and its products are often assumed to be less important than the stated gospel priorities of teaching the gospel and redeeming the dead. The following passage shows that the Church doesn’t (or at least didn’t) see it that way.

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #78: David O. McKay on the purpose of Drama in the MIA

David O. McKayFor many Mormons today, a play about a murderous school teacher would be hard to classify as “uplifting.” And while I would be surprised to hear anyone today suggest that all drama was in conflict with the gospel, the condemnation of the media today by many Mormons hardly seems different. But in the search for what is “uplifting” it might be nice to define what we mean by that term.

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #77: Orson F. Whitney on poetry and religion

Orson F. WhitneyWhile I’m a little embarrassed that it has taken me 3 months to get back to this series, I’m pleased to pick it up again and hope that it is warmly received. I’ve also updated my list of these posts and discovered that I’ve already produced 77 (including the present number) and, more importantly, have enough material to continue for quite a while.

Nor have I quite finished with the writ and wisdom of Whitney. In the preface to his 1889 poetry collection, Poetical Writings, he recognizes the aversion of some readers to religious poetry, apparently because critics found so much of it of low quality. Whitney, of course, disagreed: Continue reading “Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #77: Orson F. Whitney on poetry and religion”

Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Nephi Anderson on the immoral in drama

Nephi-AndersonWhen we hear principles taught from the pulpit, they sometimes seem remote, disconnected from reality. So speakers often add stories, sometimes fictional, to their sermons, so that we can put the principle in context. The stories produced during the Home Literature movement are often in that vein, what are sometimes called “didactic” stories, with a clear moral teaching the principle that the author wants to communicate.

In this series I’ve presented excerpts from many sermons and essays that demonstrate what Mormons have thought and discussed about literature. Today’s text is a little different, because it is an excerpt from a short story. But, it still fits, because in this story Nephi Anderson, dean of the Home Literature movement, preaches about literature–specifically what kinds of drama should be presented.

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