Tyler’s Poetry Project

So here’s the deal, AMVers. In celebration of National Poetry Month and in conjunction with AMV’s plan to do the same (I’ll try not to step on my co-bloggers toes here; if I do, especially you Wm., sorry in advance), I’m undertaking a month long exploration of Mormon verse. To chase these poets with me (or even to suggest a Mormon poet who deserves some attention, even in the lowly way I can give it on my personal blog), link to Chasing the Long White Cloud’s Mormon Poetry Project where I’ll be highlighting a poet and a poem per day for the month (at least that’s my hope). Yesterday, I took center stage myself with a spring-y haiku (*how narcissistic of you, Tyler*) and today I’ve put the spotlight on Darlene Young.

So come, if you will, spend a few minutes chasing clouds with me. Who knows: we might even find an elephant or two stampeding across the sky.

The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality, Part V

This is the final post in a five part series that explores the ethics of Latter-day Saint literature and criticism. In part four, “Maintaining Rhetorical Balance”, I cite Karl Keller’s suggestion that Mormonism’s lack or denial of a serious literary heritage stems from three delusions: 1) our Puritanism, 2) our paranoia, and 3) our apocalypticism. Adding these delusions to the Mormon culture industry’s commodification of Latter-day Saint culture and theology, I suggest that these positions are symptomatic of a general failure to engage the world (which is ultimately our means to exaltation) and Mormon theology and thus to bear what Eugene England calls the “difficult burden” of “describ[ing] a unique set of revealed truths and historical and continually vital religious experiences and to do so both truly and artistically.” I conclude by asserting that only by seeing language as experience and by moving to capture the truths of human experience in language can writers strike a spiritually real rhetorical stance, maintaining integrity of character and experience even as they move beyond the familiar, the convenient, and the comfortable to engage readers in lives and universes beyond the limits of their own.

Since the underlying concern of this series has been with the ways in which Mormons–especially Mormon critics–read or misread Latter-day Saint literature, culture, and theology, I turn now to the “or” of my tragically long title, “An Ethics of Latter-day Saint Reading” and attempt to infer some conclusions about where I think the Mormon reader/critic stands in relation to our letters. (After reading William’s series on the distinction between the terms Mormon and LDS, I’m not sure what my usage here says about me and my particular terminological inclinations. But I sure am self-conscious about them now. Thanks for that, Wm”¦)

V. Assuming Responsibility

The ethical implications and textu(r)ally redemptive possibilities of the rhetorics people use to explore human experience and to communicate with and to persuade others center in the acts of reading, a series of unique performances that exist only in the intersection between writer, reader, and text and that flow from the ethos of each transactional party. This ethos, as Booth has it, emerges not only in a person’s moral integrity, but it’s further expressed in the patterns or “habits of choice” we fall into in every domain of our lives.1 The way we read, then, as the way we habitually choose to live is a complex extension and expression of our character. Continue reading “The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality, Part V”

The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality, Part IV

This is the fourth post in a five or six part series that explores the ethics of Latter-day Saint literature and criticism. In part three, “The (In)Convenience of Mormon Letters”, I briefly examine a New Testament narrative–Satan’s temptations of Christ–first of all, to underscore the dangers a consumer-based outlook on Mormon theology poses to Mormon culture and on the essential relationship between self and other, individual and community, and, second, to suggest a way to transcend this paradox, namely by inconveniently pushing at the boundaries of established or misinterpreted cultural conventions (of action, knowledge, language, etc.) and thus expanding the limits of personal and communal understanding and potential.

As I conclude, “This vision of doctrinal expansion and spiritual cooperation as acts of theological creativity ties very closely to Mormonism’s cultural and artistic development because the depth and breadth of our theological and experiential perspective and the vigor with which we explore, express, and develop it in our lives, our writing, and our reading (often an unconscious act) determines the vitality and the efficacy of our community’s literary testimony. Because of my belief in this vision, I sense that Mormon literature and criticism haven’t yet grown past the awkwardness of adolescence into a full and necessary articulation of their essential greatness, a mature literary and critical character founded in Mormonism’s theological complexity and prophesied, promised, and hoped for by LDS prophets, seers, writers, and critics alike.”

IV. Maintaining Rhetorical Balance

Karl Keller insists that Mormon culture’s literary immaturity arises from three distinct delusions, conventions we cling to that keep us from fully experiencing words and with which we have historically “denied ourselves a literature.”1 Continue reading “The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality, Part IV”

Intermission: Indulge me my other passion?

I know, I know. You were expecting another “tragic tell” from the new guy. But I thought I’d give the heavy going a break for a week and come up for a breather as I reappraise and revise the concluding sections of my series and get my family packed and ready to move to Idaho (don’t you go too far though; you’re obviously anxious for Part IV–coming next week).

And I thought, hey, since I’ve got a captive audience *uhm-hmm* I’ll riff off of and indulge AMV’s readers (or at least myself) with one of my recent poems, originally published on my personal blog.

So without further ado… Continue reading “Intermission: Indulge me my other passion?”

The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality, Part II

This is the second post in a five or six part series that explores the ethics of Latter-day Saint literature and criticism. In part one, I introduce the dissonance between Mormon theology and Mormon culture, pointing specifically to how the artifacts of that culture–particularly our letters–often fail to engage the eternally rich and redemptive ethical dilemmas raised and embraced by LDS theology. As a case in point and as a springboard into discussing the greater questions arising from this dissonance, I deconstruct Jerry Johnston’s Mormon Times review of Eric Samuelsen’s play Inversion and suggest that the binary Johnston propagates favoring literary tidiness over ambiguity tragically reduces the Mormon quest to know God through the workings and weaknesses of human language1 into barely more than an immature attempt to avoid the discomforts of existence in a paradox-filled universe.

II. In Exchange for the Soul

One of the most tragic of these paradoxes, as Eugene England points out, is “the struggle to maintain individual integrity, to be true to ourselves”2 in the face of the demanding responsibilities and expectations laid on us through our chosen affiliation with and participation in Christ’s Church. Denying this paradox its place in our discipleship and our arts and letters, even if ignorant of our refusal, we ultimately subvert the work of God as he moves to convert us into his own exalted lifestyle, to mold us into his own glorified image. Continue reading “The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality, Part II”

The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality: Part I

The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality: Exposing the Achilles’ Heel of Jerry Johnston’s Commodified Theology, or An Ethics of Latter-day Saint Reading–Part I

(The title’s a mouthful, I know.)

This is the first post in a five or six part series (to run on Thursdays) that explores the ethics of Latter-day Saint literature and criticism. Working within a framework of the redemptive paradoxes inherent in Mormon theology and the moral universe it embraces, the series attempts to probe the place of this ambiguity in the central, recurring conflicts in Mormon letters (particularly in light of the debate between those who think Mormon literature should primarily serve orthodox, didactic purposes and those who think it should provide a more challenging aesthetic), to present an economic reading of why much popular Mormon literature remains in the former camp, and to show how one contemporary Mormon writer has attempted to transcend this paradox–and thus to serve a more deifying need–in their own writing.

I. (Mis)Reading the Mormon Tragic Quest

In his recent review of Eric Samuelsen’s new play Inversion, Jerry Johnston introduces what is and should be a demanding discussion on the ethics of Mormon literature, then bows out before giving the dialog due course or even before acknowledging that he only tells part of the story. Continue reading “The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality: Part I”

AMV welcomes Harlow, Katherine, Laura and Tyler

I’m pleased to announce that Tyler Chadwick, Harlow Clark, Laura Craner and Katherine Morris are joining A Motley Vision. I can’t think of a better way to cap off what has been a great summer for AMV, filled with great posts, excellent discussion and an increase in readers and active commenters. Thanks, everybody. I personally have felt a renewed sense of energy and commitment to the blog, and it’s all your fault.

We’ll have full bio pages up on our Contributors page soon. But in brief:

Tyler is a poet and blogger at Chasing the Long White Cloud and a doctoral student at Idaho State (or will be in just a week or two).

Laura has guest posted at AMV and blogs at LDS Readers and at Depressed (but not unhappy) Mormon Mommy.

Katherine is the founder of the student chapter of the AML and was one of the more active bloggers at Mormon Rennaissance. She recently graduated from BYU and has a particular interest in Mormon culture and linguistics. She is also my sister.

Harlow is one of the gems of the Mormon literature scene. He’s been publishing on the AML list and presenting at the AML annual meeting for a long time. His work often mixes literary criticism, personal essay and storytelling and is filled with word play (including many puns), allusions and quotations.

The AMV team is delighted by these additions. It’s a little hard for me to believe it, but what started out as a solo blog back in June 2004 has grown to 11 co-bloggers (and 1 emeritus blogger).

If you are a friend or family member or frequent commenter or AML Lister or Mormon arts colleague of any of us and are wondering why you weren’t invited to blog at AMV, it’s not because we don’t love and value you. It could be that we didn’t want to distract you from what you were already doing. Or thought you wouldn’t be interested. Or we are already well stocked up in your area of expertise. If you really, really want to join us or would be interested in guest posting, e-mail admin AT motleyvision DOT org.

Other Changes

Along with adding to our team, we’re making a few changes to AMV itself. Key navigation has been moved to the top nav bar. Our Contributors page has been reorganized to include links to both bios and posts for each blogger. The Comments Policy page has been updated. And the Contact Us page now has more information about submitting works for review, guests posts and story/event pitches. I’ve also switched to URLs that include keywords from the post title to make them more search engine (and people) friendly. However, all previous post URLs will automatically redirect to the proper post so if you’ve linked to us in the past — thank you, and you don’t need to update those links.

In addition, I have ditched the recent links section. I’m not happy with its functionality and am looking for other solutions to highlight interesting and valuable work elsewhere — especially a solution that will make it very easy for all of us co-bloggers to post links. Suggestions are welcome.

Finally, although this is mainly an internal thing, I’ve broken the bloggers up in to teams by art form. All of us will still be able to post on anything we want that falls under the heading of Mormon arts and culture, but I’m hoping that the teams approach will distribute the administrative tasks a bit, and more importantly will indicate where we need to grow further. Literature — fiction, poetry, personal essay — will probably always dominate here at AMV (and indeed is by far our largest team right now), but I think that we need to become better at covering Cinema, Theater and Visual Arts. In addition, to those four art forms, Kent and I will continue to cover the Publishing (and Marketing) of Mormon cultural products. If you are curious about who has been assigned to what team, see the Contributors page.

For those who have a specific interest in any of those categories, I’ve created special pages that list the latest blog posts on those topics. See the top section of the right nav bar.

I hope these additions and changes will give you all the more reason to drop by AMV. Or subscribe to our RSS feed. Or our Twitter feed. Or our posts by e-mail service.

And all of this is just phase one. Stay tuned.