Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Standards and Authorial Integrity

An author’s integrity, in the Mormon context, might be defined in terms of how well the author stays true to the Mormon beliefs that the author claims. This definition is perhaps the assumption behind those who criticize Mormon authors for including profanity, sex and other violations of Mormon beliefs in their work. In contrast, many authors believe that integrity refers to writing in a manner that is true to life, instead of what might be more successful commercially. Of course, since these two definitions of authorial integrity are different, at times they conflict.

While initially I would have assumed that the latter view was recent among Mormon authors, the following excerpt shows that the view that authors should be independent of commercial considerations and should write what is true to life is much older than I assumed.

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Self Instruction

Instructing yourself has, perhaps, never been easier than it is today. Perhaps the greatest library every assembled, the Internet, is available to us every hour of every day, providing unrivaled resources to anyone with a smart phone or laptop. And supplementing these resources are a growing body of courses, many free of charge, on subjects as broad as any school. In comparison to the situation in early Utah we have riches of knowledge indeed.

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Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Whitney on Originality in Mormon literature

Orson F. WhitneyOrson F. Whitney’s Home Literature sermon lays out a stunning vision, not by describing the role that Mormon literature should serve (as we looked at last week), but also by describing a vision for the kind of literature that Mormonism should produce. This week I thought I’d look at the middle third of the sermon, which talks a bit about originality in literature.

From Whitney’s description (below), I have to ask: has Mormon literature been as original as Whitney envisioned? And, perhaps we might also ask: if Mormon literature were as original as Whitney envisioned, would he like it?

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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”