“Something Fresh Out of Something Stale”

Or, Mashing Up MoLit Redux: Redux

This past September, in response to Ken’s post about mashing up Mormon literature and the purposes behind the repurposing of language and literature, in general, Ardis asked a question that turned my wheels a-spinnin’. Asked she, “[W]hat’s the point of being deliberately, unrelentingly unoriginal” by taking others’ work, repurposing it, and sending it out into the world? “Why is suppressing the urge toward originality,” as she assumes mash-up arists do, “more conducive to self-expression than the effort to, you know, actually be self-expressive?”

Seuss-style, I respond to Ardis’ question with three things (I was going to add my comment to the post itself, but my response grew beyond comment-length; hence, this):

Thing One: I don’t think it’s productive to argue that all mash-ups or remixes suppress the urge toward originality and self-expression. I’m thinking here of seven instances—four specific and three more general, though even as I think I stir up more instances—in which artists/creators have, to various degrees, remixed different aspects of culture or other preexisting materials in order to create something new: Continue reading ““Something Fresh Out of Something Stale””

Mormon Literature’s Once and Future King?

If you look at Mormon Literature in terms of how many church members interacted with it–i.e., how many members were involved either in its production or its consumption–one literary form was likely the King of Mormon Literature from the 1930s through perhaps 1970: Drama.

Continue reading “Mormon Literature’s Once and Future King?”

Sanitizing Twain

Before you read beyond the first couple paragraphs of this post, write down or answer mentally what you think about yesterday’s news that a newly published edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was altered to remove the word “nigger” and replace it with the word “slave.” The edition also replaces the word “injun” with “indian.”

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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”

On Fish and Ponds

A picture of a pond in a residential garden.

Most Mormon books, music and film are like little fish in a pond. Fortunately, consumers of these Mormon products face the same situation.

I think the idea behind the metaphor of fish in little or big ponds is something students face as they approach graduation and start trying to find some kind of success in the world. Students have to decide what kind of success they are aiming for: do they want to be big fish in a little pond? or little fish in a big pond? Are they content to be important in a small company or a cog in a large company?

Of course there are myriad ways of applying this metaphor to life. It points out an important issue in life and in human culture: how we define the scope of our efforts and even our success. It is usually possible to influence how large a fish we become. But changing the size of the pond is generally quite difficult. [There is a kind of corollary to this on the sign at BYU’s entrance, where it reads “The World is our Campus.” At least when I was there we joked that it should say “The Campus is our World;” a truism in that it is impossible to maintain such a grandiose scope.]

So how does this all work with Mormon products? Are Mormon products trying to find their audience in a small pond or a big pond? Should I move between ponds? And is it possible to be available in both small and big ponds?
Continue reading “On Fish and Ponds”

Culture Reference Clash!

Sometimes amusing things happen when we least expect it.

Last night was the adult session of our stake conference, and our visiting General Authority chose to take the time to explain the interaction of culture and the Gospel. As part of his presentation, he drew a circle on a chalk board to represent the celestial kingdom. And, quite unexpectedly, he said that the celestial kingdom included 42.

I half expected him to say “because 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.”

Continue reading “Culture Reference Clash!”