On the History of LDS Literature

In November 2005, I discovered, in a review of the Wikipedia article on Mormon Fiction, that the authors of the article thought Mormon Fiction essentially didn’t exist before 1979. Since I knew this wasn’t true, I corrected the article, and many others have added their own corrections and improvements. (I drew my information principally from Eugene England‘s Mormon Literature: Progress and Prospects, lest someone thinks I’m some kind of expert on the field.)

But last week I finished reading William’s graduate school paper (available in his July 31st post, Slowly Flowering: My grad school paper on Mormon literature), and I realized that I’m uncomfortable with the way that England has presented this history. I’m not sure it tells the whole story. And I’m not even completely sure that most literary histories tell the whole story.

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A Survey of Mormon Comix by Theric Jepson

When I asked Theric Jepson to write a bit about Mormon graphic novels, I didn’t expect that he would launch a full on bibliographic project. But he did — and even though the results make for a very long post, it’s very much worth a read. Indeed, it’s quite the amazing project and must have taken quite some time to put together. Thanks, Theric. ~Wm Morris

I’m also going to make you click through for the full post because the “more” tag seems to be causing some problems with the special formatting for the post.

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James Wood on the “nonsense written” about characters in fiction

From what I recall (I consume way too much without proper digestion), James Wood is a meanie of a literary critic who is erudite to a flaw and a bit fusty. I probably read some of his reviews back when I was reading The New Yorker (grandparents had a subscription — is anything better than hand-me-down magazines?), but I don’t remember them. However, when I read the reviews of his latest book How Fiction Works, I quickly ordered it from my local library. Several months later, I finally have it in hand.

I enjoyed it and learned from it so I suppose that means that it’s a good book. Reminds be a bit of John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction in its breadth and insistent literariness. I liked that Wood uses tons of examples from literature and that he expresses a real breadth as a reader (although he doesn’t deal much with genre) in that he likes and finds value in works of literary realism, postmodernism, and pre-realism, yet isn’t afraid to show where all of them can go wrong. He cites (approvingly) James and Nabokov and Austen and Stendhal and others and does a good job of not conflating all of them. He shows where there are serious points of differences. I also love that he clearly loves novels, loves fiction. And he goes after some of the silly truisms that get passed on, celebrating all types of metaphor and characters and style and point of view (although he does go on about free indirect discourse a lot — but he’s right — it’s what makes novels unique and wonderful and heterglossic, to borrow from Bakhtin). One wishes for a bit more structure and the latter 1/3 of the book seems a bit more rushed and less-developed than what comes before. Continue reading “James Wood on the “nonsense written” about characters in fiction”

Slowly Flowering: My grad school paper on Mormon literature

I have decided to post a Mormon literature-related paper I wrote for a graduate school class titled “Memory, Nation and Diaspora.”. The class was actually my final comp lit seminar at SF State and was taught by Martha Klironomos, the Nikos Kazantzakis Chair and director of Modern Greek Studies. She was very supportive of my desire to write about Mormon literature. I think she even gave me an A on the paper. Most of the non-Mormon-related criticism cited in the paper is pulled from some of the works we read for the course so the theoretical framework might not be to everyone’s taste, but I found it interesting. In fact, it’s the university course that has influenced my thinking about Mormon literature the most.

Anyway, here it is. No modifications have been made to the original text except for correcting one spelling error that I caught in a very quick re-reading:

Slowly Flowering: Mormon Literary Criticism on Mormon Literary History and Future

And here is an excerpt:

“But more fundamentally, through its recovering and criticism of Mormon literary history, Mormon literary theory invokes a set of texts and way of viewing them that helps preserve a Mormon ethnies, an ethnies which includes individuals beyond active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And more importantly, by exposing the deficiencies of the current Mormon literary canon, Mormon literary theory sustains the dream of a great literature produced by a chosen people, a dream that combines memory and desire, a prophecy that drives the very literary production that ensures the survival of the ethnies.”

It was also an interesting exercise in trying to figure out how to give decent context for Mormonism without getting long-winded about it. Upon re-reading, I cringed a bit at some of my notes, but on the whole I think the paper stands up fairly well. Or at least I’m not so embarrassed by it that I wasn’t willing to post it. My thanks to AMV commenter Laura Craner who reminded me of this paper in Anneke’s Twilight post.

Out-of-Print Mormon Lit

In a comment on my recent post, Looking at Our Niche Comprehensively, William wrote the following:

And he and I actually had the same idea — I think creating and prioritizing a list of out-of-print titles is a great idea. Last night, I was trying to come up with some ways to do so that goes beyond just having people post comments and/or e-mail Kent (both of which would be fine, but some sort of running polling system would be cool).

William is right that putting together such a list would be very useful. And since this is a part of my publishing program, I thought I should respond in a little more detail and point out some difficulties.
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