I’ve just read How to Read Literature Like a Professor and I’m pleased enough with it that I’m figuring out how to implement it into my classes. In essence, it’s all the stuff English majors should know by the end of their sophomore year of college—how to read a text to find patterns like journeys and season, what might meaneth the rainbow, or why, to be fully literate, one must know some Bible, some Greek myth, some Shakespeare. In other words, great stuff for the demographic I teach.
The final chapter contains Katherine Mansfield’s lovely short story “The Garden Party” along with analysis from college students, followed by some from the professor himself. I read the story while walking to school and did not spend much time analyzing it myself before reading others’ responses to the story. I had noticed some patterns etc and figured I had a pretty solid grasp on the story. Then it was pointed out to me that it is a Garden of Eden story and I immediately felt hugely embarrassed. As an Eden junkie, how did I miss this? Reading while walking is no excuse.
It’s in that spirit of contrition that I will now discuss Sorensen’s tale (read online). Continue reading “Bright Angels & Familiars: “Where Nothing Is Long Ago” by Virginia Sorensen”
Here’s how it all went down:
I had just graduated with a bachelor’s in English from USU and was pregnant with my first baby. I wasn’t going to be “one of those women” who just lets her education go for home and hearth (whatever that means! Thank you liberal/feminist education!) so I joined the ward book club and suggested a truly literary work, Virginia Sorenson’s A Little Lower than the Angels. I had come across it on an online course reading list from BYU. It was a little risky since I hadn’t read it, but, hey, you can trust those BYU professors, right?
Continue reading “Virginia Sorenson: the Book Club edition?”
Last week on the NPR radio program On The Media, in a segment titled “Vanishing Reviews,” I heard a great story from Steve Wasserman, a past editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. It seems that Wasserman had been told by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes that his ignorance of an early Mexican writer and Saint, Sor Juana de la Cruz, would be, in the Spanish-speaking world, “as if you said the word Shakespeare and got a blank stare.”
So, when Penguin Classics came out with an English translation of the works of Sor Juana de la Cruz, Wasserman decided to feature the author on the front page of the Book Review. But his American-educated superiors at the Times objected saying “Sor Juana who?” Wasserman then carried the mockup of the issue into the executive lunchroom and sat it on the table while he ordered lunch. There, a Mexican-born waiter noticed it, and exclaimed: “Sor Juana!” Wasserman asked, “You know who this is?” “Yes,” the waiter replied, “every school child in Mexico knows Sor Juana de la Cruz.”
Wasserman won the day and the issue was published and gained a flood of reader response. It seems one third of the Times’ audience speaks Spanish as their native language. The responses acclaimed the Times for finally recognizing their culture.
Now, I have a couple of questions about this:
- First, could you substitute a Mormon writer who is as important to Mormons culturally as Sor Juana de la Cruz is to Mexicans? Is there a writer that fits this bill? Or is it just that you don’t know enough about Mormon literature to know if there is one? *(see my note on this at the end of this post)
- Second, If there were such a writer featured in a major book-related publication, would most Mormons even know who the writer is?
Continue reading “What Should Mormons Know About Mormon Culture?”