The defense of Utah and Mormon artists and educators offered by J. H. Paul in 1931 may have seemed slightly overblown when he talked of poetry (see last week’s post), but as he explores other fields of art and education in the excerpt below, he seems all the more desperate and less informed about the arts in all these fields. He seems to know something of Utah artists and educators, but little of those in the rest of the world, while claiming that the Utah natives are on par with them.
Today those of us who are at least somewhat invested in Mormon Literature might be excused if we are defensive when Mormon Literature is attacked as not worthy of attention. I know that I, personally, would say something like “well, its not all that bad” or “I don’t think you’ve read enough of the better works of Mormon Literature to judge…” It turns out, we’re in good company.
Sometime before the following excerpt was written, Utah was attacked for its failure to produce worthy artists, and not just from any readers. Both H. L. Mencken and Bernard DeVoto, the latter a Utah native whose mother was Mormon, criticized the state, saying that it is a land devoid of literature, music, art–not having produced even “a critic, or educator, or editor, or publicist.”