A brief report on the LDS-themed chapter in Twilight and Philosophy

My local library system just happens to have acquired Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality (Amazon). Based on the table of contents, it would appear the all the Mormonism-related content is found in Marc E. Shaw’s contribution “For the Strength of Bella? Meyer, Vampires and Mormonsim” (pages 227-236). Here is  my brief report on that chapter (please note that I haven’t read any of the other chapters and that I’m well aware that these pop culture meets philosophy anthologies are quite popular and are intended for a specific audience to serve a specific purpose [and, of course, to profit from and fan the flames of fandom]):

Establishing of credentials (Shaw went to BYU too!). For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet reference. Eternal marriage. Meyer “plays Heavenly Mother to her fictional daughter, Bella”. Agency. Nod at Augustine. Edward-as-savior. Edward “means what he says” ~~ binds himself to Bella with his words. Utterance — words mean action. Nod at Austin. Sealing/union of body and spirit. Plato and love. Way liberal — LDS still man and woman, BUT! :: Meyer’s The Host. Somehow leads to a Big Love reference. Erotics of abstinence. Chastity. Deseret Book controversy ~~ sexy too sexy; shelves to special order. “Vampire family values!” Feminist film theory and the gaze :: Bella returns the gaze (Edward)! Is Twilight Mormon? All the before shows that “nice Mormon girls” can write about “sexy vampires.”

Well, I’m convinced.

Where Twilight Studies Meets Mormon Studies: Setting the Record Straight

Some time ago, I started following John Granger‘s Twilight studies blog, “Forks High School Professor” as a corollary to my own academic interest in Meyer’s books. Granger made a name for himself as Dean of Harry Potter Studies when he took J.K. Rowling’s books as subjects worthy of academic study. And now he’s trying his hand at Twilight, an effort I heartily applaud as I think of my own haphazard attempts to do the same thing.

And yet, sometimes he just rubs my believing-Mormon-skin the wrong way with his cursory engagement with Mormonism, something that’s simply secondary to and arising from his academic interest in literature, faith, and culture. Since he’s a newcomer to the still-blossoming field of Mormon studies* and an outsider to the LDS faith, I can’t fault him for this engagement and for getting some things wrong every now and then. Heck, cultural Mormons are a peculiar lot with an equally peculiar history. Putting things together about the religion can be difficult even for those with a lifetime commitment to it. Continue reading “Where Twilight Studies Meets Mormon Studies: Setting the Record Straight”

“Toward a Mormon Gothic” and Other News from RUD

News from the Reading Until Dawn front:

A couple of weeks ago, I read a paper at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (RMMLA) Convention at Snowbird, Utah (a rundown of my experience at the AML session will come in a later post that I’ve got halfway worked up; yes, I’ve been lazy—so sue me) and over the weekend I did some revising to incorporate some of the feedback I received and posted it on Reading Until Dawn. “Toward a Mormon Gothic: Stephenie Meyer’s Vampires and a Theology of the Uncanny” takes its place in the blossoming field of Twilight studies beside RUD’s inaugural essay, Theric Jepson’s “Saturday’s Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Novels.” Link over and have a read. That’s what all the cool kids are doing (or so they tell me).

While you’re there, you might also notice that I’ve made some subtle changes to the site design (I’ve tweaked the header) and that I’ve updated the articles. The inconsistent layout was bugging me, so I took down the HTMLs until I can get them to look how I want them to look, reworked my document template slightly, and incorporated the new MLA citation standards into the notes. Hopefully this gives the collection a more consistent and professional feel.

Also: though I’ve published “Toward a Mormon Gothic” on RUD, I’m still open to feedback. So if, while you’re reading, you notice a typo or some such faux pas or notice that I’ve missed something you deem vitally important to the conversation, either email me or comment here. That or work up your own essay and submit it for publication. I promise I won’t complain.

News & Comment: Cedar Fort Title Makes Oprah & Other News

This past week has been quite busy for news about the LDS market and the publishing industry. The following are noteworthy:

  • Cedar Fort saw unexpected promotional success with Melissa Moore‘s book, Shattered Silence, which will be the subject of an Oprah episode that airs September 17th.
  • Deseret Management announced that the websites of Deseret Book, KSL, the Deseret News, LDS Church News, and Mormon Times will now all be managed by a new division in the company, Deseret Digital.
  • A 17-year-old American Fork teenager M’Lin Rowley, signed a 10-book deal with Deseret Book‘s Shadow Mountain imprint.

Continue reading “News & Comment: Cedar Fort Title Makes Oprah & Other News”

How to Talk About “Secks” (and other thoughts regarding Mormon prudery)

I’ve been thinking a lot about sex lately. (So have Tyler and Theric!) Mostly it’s because my sister recently sent me her copy of the new Mormon sex book, by Laura M. Brotherson, and I’m surprised by what it reveals about Mormon culture.

And They Were Not Ashamed is the “new’ Mormon sex book because it was published more recently than the one that was floating around when I got married. The one people were giving out as wedding gifts when my DH and I celebrated our nuptials was by Stephen E. Lamb and Douglas E. Brinely. (Tangential question: Why do strangers give newlyweds books about sex? Really, why? Are you so afraid my parents never brought it up that you feel compelled to help out? I just don’t get that.) We received not one but two copies of the hard, silver-jacketed tome with the open-yet-frozen-in-their-separation lilies and I read it–out of curiosity and because all my unmarried friends wanted to know what was in it. Although it was full of useful information, I was disappointed to find that it was pretty much the opposite of its subject matter: cold, clinical, boring. This was how people who believe sex is a gift from God talk about it? Continue reading “How to Talk About “Secks” (and other thoughts regarding Mormon prudery)”

Reading Until Dawn’s Lone (Were)wolf

I don’t want to take anything away from National Poetry Month with another Twilight bender, but Theric’s worked so hard on his essay, “Saturday’s Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Novels,” that I thought I should jump in and give him his dues. Here’s the abstract:

“Saturday’s Werewolf explores Twilight in terms of the supernatural literature of the Latter-day Saints, specifically as the series links to the premortal romance narrative mode, as exemplified in Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon (1898) and Douglas Stewart’s popular musical Saturday’s Warrior (1989).”

It’s an entertaining and insightful read that I’ve just posted at Reading Until Dawn (both PDF and HTML versions available there). Come take a look after you finish commenting on Laura’s Harvest post.

And don’t be scared: RUD’s lone (were)wolf doesn’t bite. But it just might inspire you to submit.

Caitlin Flanagan on the Twilight series

I don’t necessarily look to Caitlin Flanagan to explain, well, much of anything*. But I do think her recent The Atlantic article about the Twilight series is worth mentioning for the simple reason that she notes that reviewers of the books always mention Stephenie Meyer’s Mormon-ness but never quite know what to do with that fact.** And because I think she possibly gets at the appeal for some (especially teenage) Mormon female readers.

Here’s the relevant excerpt:

The erotic relationship between Bella and Edward is what makes this book–and the series–so riveting to its female readers. There is no question about the exact nature of the physical act that looms over them. Either they will do it or they won’t, and afterward everything will change for Bella, although not for Edward. Nor is the act one that might result in an equal giving and receiving of pleasure. If Edward fails–even once–in his great exercise in restraint, he will do what the boys in the old pregnancy-scare books did to their girlfriends: he will ruin her. More exactly, he will destroy her, ripping her away from the world of the living and bringing her into the realm of the undead. If a novel of today were to sound these chords so explicitly but in a nonsupernatural context, it would be seen (rightly) as a book about “abstinence,” and it would be handed out with the tracts and bumper stickers at the kind of evangelical churches that advocate the practice as a reasonable solution to the age-old problem of horny young people. (Because it takes three and a half very long books before Edward and Bella get it on–during a vampiric frenzy in which she gets beaten to a pulp, and discovers her Total Woman–and because Edward has had so many decades to work on his moves, the books constitute a thousand-page treatise on the art of foreplay.) That the author is a practicing Mormon is a fact every reviewer has mentioned, although none knows what to do with it, and certainly none can relate it to the novel; even the supercreepy “compound” where the boring half of Big Love takes place doesn’t have any vampires. But the attitude toward female sexuality–and toward the role of marriage and childbearing–expressed in these novels is entirely consistent with the teachings of that church. In the course of the four books, Bella will be repeatedly tempted–to have sex outside of marriage, to have an abortion as a young married woman, to abandon the responsibilities of a good and faithful mother–and each time, she makes the “right” decision. The series does not deploy these themes didactically or even moralistically. Clearly Meyer was more concerned with questions of romance and supernatural beings than with instructing young readers how to lead their lives. What is interesting is how deeply fascinated young girls, some of them extremely bright and ambitious, are by the questions the book poses, and by the solutions their heroine chooses.

What’s interesting is that although technically Flanagan is correct about Bella making the “right” choices, there are also Mormons who are uncomfortable with some of the other choices she makes. In addition, I’m somewhat amused by all the people who have felt (or been) compelled (and that includes us here at AMV) to write about Twilight and how much our reactions betray our attitudes towards certain feminist issues as well as literary value and Mormonism.

* This is no knock on those who do. We all have varying tolerance levels for gadflies c.f. Camille Paglia, Ben Stein, Noam Chomsky, etc.

** It’ll be interesting to see if Reading Until Dawn can get us beyond some of the basic reactions that tend to come up repeatedly.