Ever since Scott Hales announced his plans to edit a new anthology of Mormon literary criticism, I’ve been thinking off and on about my own past grapplings with Mormon literature and where I’d want to take them — had I world enough, time, money, and the requisite academic chops. What follows isn’t that essay, but comes about as close as I can manage at present. Consider this my submission!
Why do or should we — as readers, writers, and/or literary critics — care about whether a text is Mormon? Potential reasons are legion, as varied as readers themselves. Among the most typical and (it seems to me) important are the following:
- To understand Mormonism better — as a culture, religion, historical movement, or what have you
- To investigate specific elements of Mormon experience, thought, and culture through literary works
- To explore the purpose(s) and role(s) of literature in Mormon experience and worldview
- To articulate ways that literature has influenced Mormonism
- As a test case to investigate the interrelationships of literature and religion, literature and identity, literature and culture, and a host of other potential intersections
- To understand better particular literary works that incorporate manifestly Mormon elements
- To assert our own membership (or non-membership) in the Mormon community
- To explore what it means to be Mormon and a reader, Mormon and a writer, or Mormon and a critic
- To seek out and encourage literature we think is worthwhile, in whatever particular relationship to Mormonism we endorse: celebratory, investigatory, critical, or other[1. The purposes listed here include many I have seen explicitly or (mostly) implicitly pursued via published essays, blog posts, discussions on the email discussion list once sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters, and a variety of other venues — plus a few I’ve not seen much of (such as the influence of literature on Mormonism) but that seem like logical and potentially interesting possibilities.]
Continue reading “Parsing the “Mormon” in Mormon Literature”
Today’s readings are:
“The Class That Wouldn’t Die” by Joe Vasicek
“Three Different Mormon Futures” by Eric James Stone
“Avek, Who is Distributed” Steven L. Peck
“Release” by Wm Morris
“Waiting” by Katherine Cowley
and, if we have time, “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (free audio)
Please feel free to have your own seminar in the comments to this post.
Other posts in series:
Yes, progress is being made, and Theric and I are pleased to announced round 3 of admits to the Monsters & Mormons anthology. These 7 works bring us to 15 total. There is still room for more. And we are continuing to work on figuring out which submissions will make the cut. Once again, until you have been specifically e-mailed a rejection, your work is still in the running. And, once again, we’re not doing this in order of our favorite works to our least favorites or anything like that. This is simply the next round we want to announce and is calculated to show that whole thing about range and depth*. And yet again, we’ve got some pretty awesome authors and works here (in no particular order):
- The novella Fangs of a Dragon by David J. West — a Porter Rockwell (tall-) tale that draws heavily on late 19th-century Utah history and folk legend
- The short story “I Had Killed A Zombie” by Adam Greenwood — a zombie post-apocalyptic first person account that riffs off of Joseph Smith’s rhetorical style
- The short comic “Mormon Golem” by Steve Morrison — a reworking of the Golem legend set in 1838 in Far West, Missouri
- The short story “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone — space opera of the alien-encounter sort with an unusual Mormon angle that was originally published in Analog
- The short story “The Living Wife” by Emily Milner — a domestic-drama ghost story with a very Mormon context
- The novella Brothers In Arms by Graham Bradley — action-packed zombie military sci-fi with Mormon protagonists
- The short comic “Traitors and Tyrants: A Wives of Erasmus Adventure” written by John Nakamura Remy with art by Galen Dara — ninja action adventure Mormon polygamy/State of Deseret alternate history steampunk
Note that I use the word Mormon as an adjective a lot in the descriptions above. Part of that is that I don’t want to get too far in to spoiler territory, but it’s also that each of these works very much embrace both the Monsters and the Mormons aspects to this anthology. We’ve got some good ones here, folks. And more to come.
*For example, you’ll notice that we have included at least one novella and two short stories in each class so far. That trend may or may not continue.
Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters. AMV is pleased to bring you Andrew’s Year in Review for 2008. The review concludes today with a look at poetry and short fiction. Read the other entries in the series.
Part III: Poetry and Short Fiction
I am aware of two major poetry collections published by Mormon authors in 2008. Neil Aitken’s debut collection, The Lost Country of Sight, won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Aitken, a graduate of BYU, is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California. C. G. Hanzlickek, a judge for the Levine Prize, wrote, “It’s difficult to believe that Neil Aitken’s The Lost Country of Sight is a first book, since there is mastery throughout the collection. His ear is finely tuned, and his capacity for lyricism seems almost boundless. What stands out everywhere in the poems is his imagery, which is not only visually precise but is also possessed of a pure depth. The poems never veer off into the sensational; they are built from pensiveness and quietude and an affection for the world. ‘Travelling Through the Prairies, I Think of My Father’s Voice’ strikes me as a perfectly made poem, but poems of similar grace and power are to be found throughout the book. This is a debut to celebrate.” Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review, Part III: Poetry and Short Fiction 2008”