Beyond Prescription, Part 4

Liberating Paradox(i)es: Tensions, Texts of Comparison, Twitter, and Emma Lou Thayne

After finishing with a reading of Timothy Liu’s short poem, “The Tree that Knowledge Is”—a reading based in and flowing from a nodal model of Mormon culture—I fully intended to move into an extended exploration of Waterman’s suggestions for Mormon criticism: 1) read with an eye toward the plurality of modern identity, focusing particularly on the tensions this multiplicity creates within the text and between the text and the culture it springs from (which opens the way to engage Terryl Givens’ critical taxonomy from People of Paradox) and 2), “[i]nformed by cultural studies/new literary historicism methodologies, […] place […] [Mormon literature] in conversation with a number of other contemporary texts to examine ways […] [this literature] help[s] explain Mormon—and […] [any other aspect of cultural identity]—experience at a certain historical moment.”

But my intentions have changed, partially because of several Twitter-sations I’ve been involved in lately with MoJo (@MoriahJovan), Theric (@thmazing), and William (@motleyvision) about Mormon lit. In fact, Saturday I came to this realization (in a series of Tweets): after wondering how the Mormon literary community has “been having the same critical conversation for 30 years,” I pursued the thought that part of this may stem from the relative invisibility of the community’s non-prescriptive critical cache—that is, the offline venues through which Mormon literary criticism has developed/been presented and published. Dialogue, Irreantum, and Sunstone contain some of this work, but I sense I’m missing something because I don’t have access to the thirty years worth of proceedings from the AML annual meeting. Continue reading “Beyond Prescription, Part 4”

Beyond Prescription, Part 3

I take up today where I left off .

Liberating Paradox(i)es: Nodes, Networks, and Timothy Liu’s “Tree”

I recognize I may be preaching to the choir here (in the radical middle) by advocating such a pluralist view of Mormon culture–one, I should confess, that I hope can encourage more space in the Mormon critical community for the whole spectrum of Mormon identities and literatures, to the end:

a) of fostering critical dialogue that transcends, while leaving room for, prescriptive polemic; that moves beyond, while acknowledging the potential validity of, readings that justify (or not) the virtue, praiseworthiness, etc., of texts that push the Mormon moral envelope; and because such (con)textual expansion exposes critics/readers to varying forms of literary greatness and goodness of character, beyond the Mormon letters almost singular obsession with turning to the historio-cultural singularities of Shakespeare and Milton as the standards against which to judge whether or not our literary community has arrived (will we ever overcome this Mormonized anxiety of influence?) Continue reading “Beyond Prescription, Part 3”

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”

“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”

Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon

Introduction to Textual Criticism
Part V

As the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of our religion,  so the original manuscript was the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, or at least it was in the cornerstone from 1841-1882, when Lewis Bidamon, Emma’s second husband, removed it. It was badly damaged by water and mold and only about 28 percent survives. Joseph’s scribes made a copy for the printer which survives intact except for a few lines.

That is a great deal more than we have of the original manuscript for any other scripture from antiquity. We don’t have any manuscript within hundreds of years of the original for any book of the Bible, or other ancient books. (And, of course, we don’t have the original records for the Book of Mormon, only the manuscripts of a translation.) We even lack original manuscripts for many books much less ancient, Shaxberd for example.

But we do have many copies of books from antiquity ranging from hamburger-sized fragments and smaller to nearly complete. Textual criticism is a discipline developed to figure out how to handle the differences between the many copies of a work. Sometimes the differences are copyist’s errors, or errors where a scribe didn’t read the original correctly. But there are many cases where a scribe or editor simply didn’t value what the author had written and made some changes. And this still happens today.

Continue reading “Gadianton the Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon”

Gadianton The Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon

Introduction to Textual Variants Part IV
When my father taught as a Fulbright professor at the University of Oulu, Finland in 1970-71 we took along an anthology of humor, maybe A Sub-treasury of American Humor, ed. by E. B. White, which had this piece by Robert Benchley with the very strange title “Filling that Hiatus,” about what to do when the people on either side of you at a dinner party are talking to someone else. I couldn’t figure out what a hi-uh-toose was, and for some reason didn’t think to look it up. Now that I’ve been on a taxing highertoose for about a month I figure it’s thyme to parsley write down what I’ve been thinking about.

In Part III I mentioned Joseph Smith’s discourse of Sunday October 15, 1843 which starts with a comment on his love for the Constitution and its guarantees of religious freedom, then moves on to a comment about textual corruption in the Bible, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.” (Documentary History of the Church VI:56-57)

The quote, though not the rest of the discourse, is well-known to seminary students and missionaries, and a young missionary might mention it to a woman who asks why we need additional revelation, hardly expecting her to say, “Do you really believe Jehovah God Almighty would allow errors to get into His scriptures?”

Continue reading “Gadianton The Nobler, Reflections on Changes in the Book of Mormon”

Reading Until Dawn’s Lone (Were)wolf

I don’t want to take anything away from National Poetry Month with another Twilight bender, but Theric’s worked so hard on his essay, “Saturday’s Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Novels,” that I thought I should jump in and give him his dues. Here’s the abstract:

“Saturday’s Werewolf explores Twilight in terms of the supernatural literature of the Latter-day Saints, specifically as the series links to the premortal romance narrative mode, as exemplified in Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon (1898) and Douglas Stewart’s popular musical Saturday’s Warrior (1989).”

It’s an entertaining and insightful read that I’ve just posted at Reading Until Dawn (both PDF and HTML versions available there). Come take a look after you finish commenting on Laura’s Harvest post.

And don’t be scared: RUD’s lone (were)wolf doesn’t bite. But it just might inspire you to submit.