Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Day for A Motley Vision

My first post at A Motley Vision last week, "The Tragic Tell of Mormon Morality: Part I", got quite a response. My rationale for the series, as posted with Part I, is that I'm attempting to explore the ethics of Latter-day Saint literature and criticism by working within a framework of the redemptive paradoxes inherent in Mormon theology and the moral universe it embraces. In my posts I probe around a bit, trying to locate 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.

At least that's what I've started with.

In part one, "(Mis)Reading the Mormon Tragic Quest," 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 language into barely more than an immature attempt to avoid the discomforts of existence in a paradox-filled universe.

In part two, "In Exchange for the Soul" (posted today), I extend these paradoxes more deeply into the realm of literature, exploring how our literary experience with them can become an "intelligent affirmation" of and engagement with the moral universe. I also continue my deconstruction of Johnston's review and assert that he takes a subtly dangerous stance by punctuating his reading of the state of Mormon letters with pecuniary examples drawn from the scriptures.

Just so you know what I've been up to in all of my spare time.

I'll let you know how part two goes next week. Or you could come check it out.

Visitors are always welcome.