Note: This is just a teaser, really, to prepare you for Part 4. (Coming next week.)
That, or it’s mid-term week and I haven’t had time to flesh out the next post.
Either way. On to Part 3.5.
Roughing Out a Theory and a Course in Mormon Lit
i. The Theory
As I was scripturing this morning in Jacob 5, I was struck (as I’ve been struck before) by verse 48: After the master of the vineyard laments over having done so much for his trees that have, nonetheless, been corrupted, “the servant said unto his master:”
Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard—have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?
And then by verse 66:
For it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard; wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard.
Today’s reading of these two verses in particular brought to mind two things: 1) the nodal model of Mormon religion/culture that I sketched out in and 2) a line from my patriarchal blessing that encourages me to pursue a vocation that will parallel my mission for the Father on Earth.
In reference to the latter, I’ve been considering lately that my (increasing) professional commitment to Mormon Studies, as part of the broader academic package I’m pursuing, is at least a partial answer to that encouragement, as is my commitment to teaching. But as I worked my way through part 3 of Beyond Prescription, I started to think about the parallel relationship this posits between Mormonism as a religion and Mormonism as a culture less linearly. In an earlier draft of the post, I wrote that the religion and the culture plot parallel paths through the rhetorical field of mortality, sometimes intersecting, sometimes trailing each other, sometimes at cross purposes, etc., etc. That was too limited, though, too linear. Then I sat through my folklore seminar and the professor glossed over a model that explained culture/s, texts, and contexts in terms of nodes and networks—and my thinking on the relation between Mormon religion/Mormon culture shifted to a more complex organismic model, one that I’m still trying to work out.
And that brings me back to Jacob and my patriarchal blessing, which both led me to ask, “What if my professional/spiritual development and (more apropos to the theory I’ve been tinkering with) the Mormon religion/culture relation are like one of these trees—an interdependent system of roots and branches connected in a sprawling human (eternal?) network such that, as in a healthy, cared for tree, growth in one parallels/presupposes growth in the other?” This accounts, I think, for inextricable link between Mormonism’s dual aspects and, as a corollary, to the connection I sense between (my) discipleship and (my) scholarship.
Of course, I’ve only just begun to explore the analogy and I recognize its limitations. But I thought I’d share and see what the AMV community thinks…
ii. A Course in Mormon Lit
In response to Boyd’s recent post on Mormon Studies through Literature, Drama, and Film and in my effort to create the best possible reading experience for any interested in contemporary Mormon literature, I’m posting the reading list for the course in Mormon lit that I’ve been drafting for a program internship. I’ve decided to lay the course out based on themes I’ve noticed in my reading of late and because I think it would create an interesting reading experience. Though my list is incomplete (specially in light of the anthologies I’ve listed and the poets I still need to include) and though some of the texts obviously cross thematic boundaries, reflect my own reading tastes, and might be changed for something else at any time, this is what I’ve got at present. Feedback (on texts, themes, ambitions, etc.) is most welcome:
Reading the Mormon Experience: Contemporary LDS Literature
Main Course Texts
The Fob Bible
The Best of Mormonism
Bright Angels and Familiars
“Ida’s Sunday” Phyllis Barber
“Bread for Gunnar” Phyllis Barber
“The Willows” Eileen Kump
“Clothing Esther” Lisa Torcasso Downing
Bound on Earth Angela Hallstrom
“Little Happy Secrets” Melissa Leilani Larson
“The Prodigal Son” James Goldberg
“When I Do Go on My Honeymoon” William C. Bishop
“Weary” Sarah E. Jenkins
Other poems from The Fob Bible
Selections from Timothy Liu, May Swenson, Lance Larsen, Philip White
Onward to Zion . . . and Beyond: The Clash of Worlds (without End)
“The Fringe” Orson Scott Card
“Spirit Babies” Phyllis Barber
“Wild Sage” Phyllis Barber
“Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg” James Goldberg
“The Christianizing of Coburn Heights” Levi S. Peterson
“Where Nothing is Long Ago” Virginia Sorensen
“They Did Go Forth” Maureen Whipple
Angel of the Danube Alan Rex Mitchell OR
Rift Todd Robert Petersen OR
Lost Boys Orson Scott Card
Selections from Michael Collings
“Confessions of a Secular Mormon” Ryan McIlvain
Peculiar (Re)Visions: Variations on an Open Canon
“Abraham’s Purgatory” B. G. Christensen
“The Changing of the God” B. G. Christensen
“The Faith of the Ocean” A. Arwen Taylor
“The Book of Job’s Wife” Danny Nelson
“Scattered” Kate Woodbury
“Adam and Eve” Davey Morrison
Excerpts from Psalm & Selah Mark Bennion
Voices from the Wilderness
“Opening Day” Douglas Thayer
Selections from Kim Johnson, Susan Elizabeth Howe (Stone Spirits)
Excerpts from Refuge Terry Tempest Williams