Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brought To You By...

Either Dr. Pepper. Or A Motley Vision. Or, even better, both.

(Speaking of AMV: I'm on stage today with part one of a serialized essay in/on Mormon literature and criticism. Come join the fun, though the first part reads, first, like a teaser: I'm trying to seduce people away from the continuing hullabaloo over Mormon Shakespeares and Miltons; and second, like an award acceptance speech: "Yes, thanks to all of my supporters." Anyway.)

My life has taken an interesting turn over the past couple of years. Once I had realized there was such a thing as Mormon lit, I started looking for inroads into the culture of Mormon lit/crit. It took some time, but I feel like I've finally got a foot in the door. And most of that, really, is thanks to AMV, through which I started engaging in discussions of Mormon culture and expanded my reading base in the field of Mormon lit (though I still feel like I've got lots of catching up to do).

I mention this not simply to plug AMV again, but to do some ego inflating. Because isn't that what blogging's really all about?

So, without further ado, three recent/forthcoming achievements I owe to my roots in AMV:

1) I'll be reading a paper on The FOB Bible (a slightly revised version of the two part review I posted at AMV: here and here) at the Association for Mormon Letters annual meeting on February 27, 2010. What's The FOB Bible you ask? Well, check out my review and you'll see.

2) A revised version of my essay on Twilight, which I probably wouldn't have written had I not been involved in Twilight discussion on AMV, is being published in Sunstone Magazine.

3) And my participation on AMV has given me confidence and the grounding to propose a dissertation on Mormon poetry. This is a rough preliminary outline of my potential focus:

I'd like to approach the work of several poets writing out of a Mormon cultural/religious tradition--including Clinton F. Larson, May Swenson, Alex Caldiero, Susan Elizabeth Howe, Lance Larsen, Timothy Liu, and Kimberly Johnson--in terms of how each engages human embodiment. By reading their work:

a) against a general American poetics of embodiment, informed by body studies scholarship and the work of such poets as Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Galway Kinnell, Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Louise Gluck, Jay Hopler, and Paisley Rekdal (among, perhaps, others);

b) in conjunction, as a response to a field of tensions inherent in many cultures, yet deepened and revised by Mormonism as a "new religious tradition," as historian Jan Shipps calls it; these tensions include the strain between an unprecedented--at least in modern Christianity---ecclesiastical authoritarianism and a pronounced theological and cultural emphasis on/veneration for the principle of individual moral agency; Mormonism's radical juxtaposition of the sacred and the banal; the strain facilitated by the general organizational tendency toward assimilation into mainstream culture and efforts made by contemporary LDS church leaders to retrench the organization in its historical peculiarity; and the ambiguity born of a cultural/theological emphasis on epistemological certainty in the face of Mormon belief in life and learning beyond mortality and the prospect of what intellectual historian Terryl Givens calls "abject smallness before the magnitude of an almost unquenchable ignorance" about the physical and moral universe (these tensions are adapted from Givens' book People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture); I'm particularly concerned with what these contradictions might mean for a Mormon poetics of embodiment;

and c) against each other as well as against LDS cultural/historical texts that have been central to the development of mainstream LDS church policy and thought on gender and family relationships and human embodiment (especially the church's 1995 proclamation on the family, which reiterates historical church teachings on traditional family values)---

I hope to illuminate how each poet has uniquely engaged---even subverted and revised---the general poetics of embodiment of a) as well as the tensions and texts in b) and c) in his/her development of an embodied poetics and a poetic and gender identity at once distinctive from yet bound up in a Mormon religious and cultural tradition.

After hearing back from one potential dissertation committee member, who called this "ambitious," I'm thinking I potentially need to pare something back in order to streamline this whole dissertation process so I can be done with school by the end of 2011. (Any suggestions in this regard from my oh-so-large audience of readers would be appreciated.)

So, anyway: three cheers for AMV. And Dr. Pepper. Because that's what's keeping me awake at this point.


  1. Cool.

    Also: it's not my personal favorite form or literary vein, but I think you've got something here with the embodiment notion.

    Any time you can bring in one of the major theological innovations of Joseph Smith and Whitman together, I think you have a chance for something very interesting. Pf course, I'm not expert, but the moment I saw embodiment and poetry, my first thought was of Whitman so it makes a lot of sense to me.

  2. .

    Holy crap, man. You want to do that by 2011? Just reading that made me tired and want to rethink grad school entirely.

    In other news, reading your essay in Sunstone after enough time had passed to mostly forget the original version, I found your arguments compelling and sucking (in a good sense; it's too late for vocabularic nuance). Nice job.

  3. Well, Th.: I'm glad I could compel you and suck you in. Marks of a good essay, I guess.

    I haven't read your revised essay yet, but I hope to get my hands on a copy of the magazine soon. Stephen was very complimentary of what you've done with the article, so I'm doubly interested to see where you went with it.

  4. Wm:

    I think you have a chance for something very interesting.

    The professor's I've approached with the topic have all been intrigued by the idea, so I'm hoping it turns out well. *Fingers crossed*