Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm afraid I've been thinking (again)

A dangerous pastime, I know. (After last time, I figured I should put in the right reference this go around---just for you, Laura and Th.)

I've been mulling dissertation directions for months now, trying to settle my mind on something broad enough that it will maintain my interest through the research and writing process, yet narrow enough that it won't take years to write. After exploring more deeply the options I posted in June and after pondering the premise behind Richard Bushman's new Mormon Review venture (namely that there's a uniquely Mormon way of reading the world/literature/culture and that the variety of Mormon readers should seek to hash out and apply various manifestations of said theory/ies [as it were] to the "best books"---those beyond the specific purview of "written by or about Mormons"), I've started asking myself some questions about what it might mean to read as a Mormon (these have come through a variety of avenues, from pondering Mormon Review's editorial mission to reading an essay on Christian hospitality):

Are there uniquely Mormon ways of reading? If so, what are they? What defines them? What critical theories do they incorporate, (re)define, play with/off of to add value to any given cultural artifact in the eyes and the lives of readers? What moral/ethical vision do these readings strive to produce/realize in the world? What varieties of religous/ethnic/moral/personal experience do/can they entail?

Concept of hospitality; is there a critical theory of hospitality: how might this fit into the notion of reading as a Mormon? Consider Bruce Jorgensen's "Let the Stranger Say"; also the doctrine of inclusion and Christian hospitality.

Is listening only to the voices of your own religion really, to some, an acceptable way of looking at the world? What does Mormonism, as a theology, really encourage? What might this entail in terms of a Mormon literary theory?

These are just my initial questions, those I expect to prompt a vocational focus on developing/articulating a Mormon critical/literary theory that attempts to draw together critical theories in general and, more specifically, the work of Mormon literary critics (as these, for starters). And that, I think, highlights what may be my broad focus: critical theory, especially where it intersects with ethics and religion. But that's a huge, deeply philosophical playing field and I've been wondering how to focus it for a dissertation, especially when I think of how a theory of literature should arise out of an engagement with the literature itself, not simply out of the philosophical discussion of abstract concepts.

As I've waded through how to translate that thought into action, I keep turning to Reading Until Dawn and my present engagement with Twilight. And as I was running this morning, I had the crazy thought that I could dissertate on Stephenie Meyer (Twilight + The Host) and start developing/adding to said theoretical standpoint from there. Some may not view the phenomenon as worthy of critical consideration, but lately I've had an outpouring of ideas, of ways to turn a critical lens on Meyer's novels, their literary relations, and the zeitgeist they've been fueling for the past few years.

For some reason, this thought has me intellectually giddy. I'm even thinking it might be---dare I say it?---fun.

Please tell me I'm not just going insane. And feel free to discuss, add to, strike down, rehash, etc., any of my questions. I'm trying my ideas here in an attempt to define and refine them and to develop more questions to pursue.

So engage me, if you will.