Scott Hales on teaching Mormon literature

Wm interviews Scott Hales to find out what Scott’s experience teaching a unit of Mormon literature to non-LDS college students was like.

Scott Hales is a literary critic, Ph.D. student, writer and all-around Mormon culture raconteur. He was one of the brains (and brawn) behind the Mormon Lit Blitz, he blogs about Mormon literature and other stuff at The Low-Tech World, and also writes for Modern Mormon Men. He just finished teaching Mormon literature to non-LDS college students and graciously agreed to an interview about the experience.

For our readers who weren’t aware of this project, tell us briefly about how you came to be teaching a unit on Mormon literature and how it fits into the overall context of the class.

About a year ago I submitted a proposal to the English department for me to teach a 200-level Topics in Literature class called “American Religious Landscapes.” The basic idea behind the class was to look at fiction that explores the ways religion attaches itself to landscapes both concrete and abstract. I had just finished an independent study on Mormon fiction for credit toward my degree, so I was looking for an excuse to try out some of my ideas about Mormon literature on a captive audience.

At the time, a lot of my ideas focused on how Mormon fiction often suggests ways to reimagine the boundaries Mormons set around themselves. So, I found myself thinking a lot about Mormonism and its literature as a landscape or network of landscapes, which seemed appropriate considering how Mormons from the very beginning have tried to establish a strong physical presence with planned cities and temples. I also found myself looking at the way other religious groups do much the same thing. I figured that while Mormons are a peculiar people, they’re not that peculiar in their desire to stake their claim on the land. Continue reading “Scott Hales on teaching Mormon literature”

A Mormon Lit Blitz plea

A guest post from Scott Hales explores common reactions to Mormon fiction and makes a plea for submissions that depict contemporary Mormon life.

Wm says: Scott asked me to post this. I was loathe to do so because I’m going to enter the contest so why would I want more competition? But I have a reputation of magnanimity to uphold so here it is…

A New Plea for Fiction

by Scott Hales

The other day, I posted on Facebook that the publication agreement for a review I wrote of Angela Hallstrom’s Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction had come in the mail. Among the comments that followed was one that suggested the book should have been called Latter-day Fiction: Disposable.

Now, I doubt the guy who made the comment had ever read the book–even though I know he’s no stranger to Mormon studies. More likely, his comment sprang from the common misconception among Mormons–and we all know it’s there–that fiction written by Latter-day Saints about Latter-day Saints and for Latter-day Saints isn’t worth reading. Not by anyone over the age of fourteen, at least. And even then, it’s still disposable. Continue reading “A Mormon Lit Blitz plea”

The Mormon Lit Blitz Contest: show us your best 1k words

AMV reminds its readers to get writing for the Mormon Lit Blitz Contest, which we endorse although we aren’t official sponsors.

Wm– Although not an official sponsor, AMV is definitely on board with concept of the Mormon Lit Blitz Writing Contest, and we are happy to promote it. Ya’ll should enter. I daresay some of us AMVers or friends of AMV will be doing so. It’s only 1,000 words!


Now announcing the first ever Mormon Lit Blitz Writing Contest organized by James Goldberg and Scott Hales. Send up to three submissions by 15 January, 2012 to for a chance to win a Kindle and more.

What we want:
Short work for Mormons to be published and read online. Continue reading “The Mormon Lit Blitz Contest: show us your best 1k words”

Irreantum 13.1

Some quick, subjective reactions to the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Irreantum

Favorite review: “Modern Mormon Family: Angela Hallstrom’s Bound on Earth” by Scott Hales. I find Scott’s writing style quite winning and charming in this review.

Favorite essay*: “Wrestling with God: Invoking Scriptural Mythos and Language in LDS Literary Works” by James Goldberg. His other essay is funnier and more interesting, but this is solid, critical (and critical) work. I haven’t read something that feels like it really moves the field in awhile. This does — both descriptively and prescriptively.

Favorite poem: “Disco Hero” by Liz Chapman. Uniquely Mormon, very funny, and totally approachable. Just what I need from poetry that appears in Mormon journals.

Favorite short story: “Flight” by Courtney Miller Santo. I love that it’s an old couple and how their oldness and their coupleness plays out and how real, yet unique, yet fictional it seems. I enjoyed the background presence of the mommy blogger daughter (although it’s maybe a little too hammered home in the end). The imagery with the hummingbirds somehow feels like it’s adding to the whole mix without screaming allegory. Very nicely done.

*Note that I’m bundling the critical essays and creative nonfiction, which I probably shouldn’t, but I see them as all on the same continuum and so react to them as such.