Category Archives: Conferences

2015 AML Conference: Everything you wanted to know about Mormon Literature (but were afraid to ask)

3.21.15 | | 4 comments

NOTE: James Goldberg has provided the following information about the AML Conference on Saturday, March 28, 2015.

AML Conference: Everything you wanted to know about Mormon Literature (but were afraid to ask)

First: get out your calendars: mark Saturday, March 28, 1-5 pm, as a time to go down to the Utah Valley University Library (rooms LI 515 and LI 516).

Now: Let me tell you why.

Since the late 1970s, the Association for Mormon Letters has been holding annual conferences. If you’ve ever been to an academic conference, you know the drill: organizers send out a call for papers, scholars try to say something specific enough to be new, and then sessions are scheduled. When the conference comes around, some speakers will hold their audiences rapt as they broaden their horizons or change the way they think about the field. Others do their best not to bore themselves to sleep.

The conference model works reasonably well for testing out new ideas in a field and spreading them to the relevant experts. But it’s less effective at introducing the big ideas: if you’re new, a conference takes you straight up to the newest leaves of knowledge without always bothering to show you which trees they’re on, let alone letting you see the forest.

This year, we want to remedy that. There are many people who get curious about Mormon Literature at some point in their lives, but “know not where to find it.” My friends: wait no longer. At this conference, we’re going to put off the long, carefully-footnoted papers for a moment and get straight to your questions. And we’re going to do it—through panels, live debates, a writing workshop, a poetry slam, and an awards ceremony—over the course of a single afternoon.

Here’s a sampling of questions the conference will respond to:

Do interesting Mormon books exist? Where can I find them?

This is the question I’ve heard most about Mormon Lit. People who’ve never tried to read a Mormon novel or play or poetry collection often ask it with a skeptical intonation. As if to say: “I’ve heard Michael McLean. Isn’t that enough?”

People who have just read a Mormon book they liked for the first time tend to ask me the same question, but with a different intonation. Like: “is there more of this stuff hiding from me somewhere?”

Whether you’re still looking for your first love connection with a Mormon book or hoping to add to a long list of must-reads, you might want to go to “My Favorite Mormon Book—And Why It Matters.” We’ll open with a panel featuring the likes of Freetown screenwriter Melissa Leilani Larson, YA critic Glenn Gordon, historian Ardis Parshall, and poet Lance Larsen giving you the personal stories behind their reading recommendations, and then take recommendations from the audience.

You might also want to stick around for the 2014 AML Awards Ceremony, where we’ll unveil which works made it off this year’s short lists and onto the pages of Mormon Lit memory as outstanding titles in their genres.

What sort of people get into Mormon Lit? And what are they trying to accomplish?

For a practical guide to the landscape, we’re offering a panel, led by Katherine Morris of Mormon Artist, called “The Mormon Lit Scene Today” with a discussion of the publishers, events, awards, interest groups, and online spaces that make up the Mormon Lit scene in 2015.

For a deeper look into what Mormon writers want, you might want to check out the debate between Stephen Carter of Sunstone and James Goldberg of the Mormon Lit Blitz over the question “What Is the Role of the Mormon Writer in the Mormon Community?”

What’s the future of Mormon Lit? Where do things go from here to the Mormon Shakespeare? And what about flying cars? When will we get flying cars?

So…you want to see the future? Consider attending the debate between the incomparable Eric Samuelsen and the unforgettable Orson F. Whitney* over what Mormon Lit needs now to reach the next level of awesome in the near future.

You might also want to attend the conference’s poetry slam, organized by Fire in the Pasture editor Tyler Chadwick, to see the future up on its feet. Or else learn to be the future you want to see in Mormon Lit through a writing workshop from a few of the geniuses who run Segullah.

The Schedule:

12:30: Free registration opens, mingling begins

1 pm: Carter vs. Goldberg Debate / “The Mormon Lit Scene Today”

2 pm: Writing Workshop / Samuelsen vs. Whitney* Debate

3 pm: “My Favorite Mormon Book” / Poetry Slam

4 pm: Announcement of Annual AML Award Winners

*Update: It has come to the attention of the conference organizers that Orson F. Whitney died in 1931 and will thus be unable to attend the conference in corporeal form. Eric Samuelsen remains committed to a public debate, but his replacement opponent and the topic are once again TBD.

UVU Lecture, AML Conference next week

3.19.15 | | no comments

Two events  will take place next week (the week of March 23) that are of interest to Mormon literature fans who live in or can travel to the Provo-Orem area:

2015 Eugene England Memorial Lecture

WHEN: Thursday, March 26, at 7 p.m.
WHERE: the Utah Valley University Library Lecture hall (LI 120)
WHO: Robert A. Rees who will speak on “Reimagining Restoration: Why Liberalism is the Ultimate Flowering of Mormonism.”

Robert Rees currently teaches at the Graduate Theological Union and University of California at Berkeley and is co-founder of the Liahona Children’s Foundation. Dr. Rees is an scholar, author, and poet, and a voice of reason and compassion in Mormon Studies for almost fifty years. He he served as the second editor, following Eugene England, for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought from 1971-1976 and coedited with England the Reader’s Book of Mormon. He also edited Proving Contraries: A Collection of Writings in Honor of Eugene England.

Association for Mormon Letters Annual Conference

WHEN: Saturday, March 28, 1-5 p.m.
WHERE: Utah Valley University Library (see signage for exact rooms)
WHO: A whole bunch of people. There will be a writing workshop featuring writers/editors from Segullah; a poetry slam organized by Tyler Chadwick; possibly a debate on the topic “What Is the Role of the Mormon Writer in the Mormon Community?”; a panel on the Mormon Lit scene today, etc. And the AML award winners will be announced. The schedule is still coming together, but from what little I’ve seen of the discussion of what it will be and who will be involved, it’s going to be well worth devoting a Saturday afternoon to.

Here. Read a book. #ldsconf

10.6.14 | | 10 comments


I suddenly thought to start tweeting #MoLit / #MormonLit stuff during #ldsconf. I wasn’t consistent in my hashtags and not all my examples were ideal and I tended to repeat some works too many times and I wasn’t above being self-promotional, but I wasn’t totally dissatisfied with the results.

I’m putting them here mostly to encourage others to do better.


Sunstone Kirtland and The Garden of Enid

5.14.14 | | 4 comments

AMVLast weekend I had the chance to attend this year’s regional Sunstone Symposium in Kirtland. I initially had not planned to attend, but after I published three cartoons in the recent issue of Sunstone, the director of the symposium invited me to give a presentation on The Garden of Enid. I gladly accepted.

Kirtland is four hours northeast of my home. Travelling with limited funds, I left at 4:30 in the morning and drove non-stop to the Stannard Stone Quarry in Chapin Forest Reservation, where the early Saints quarried stone for the temple, just two miles south of Kirtland. I had an hour to wait before the symposium, so I grabbed my camera and took a mile-long trail through the forest, hoping to see something neat—like a rock formation. The trail was all trees and moss, however, until I found the quarry itself in a creek a few muddy steps off the beaten path. A few years back, the Church and the local government had put up signage and built a wooden walkway over the creek—perhaps to prevent visitors from climbing down into the creek itself, as I was doing, to get a better view of the chisel marks in the algae-covered stone.

After snapping more pictures than I’ll ever need of the quarry, I hiked back to my car and drove to the Community of Christ’s Kirtland Temple Visitor’s Center, the conference venue, where I picked up my name tag and pocketed a few free copies of Sunstone and an old collection of Mormon cartoons by Calvin Grondahl. From there I headed to the main classroom to wait for the conference keynote address to begin and feel guilty about not making better small talk with strangers.


Alex Caldiero's Performative Poesis:<br />Making, the <i>Makar</i>, and Mormonism

4.28.14 | | 9 comments

Earlier this month, I presented some of my research on Alex Caldiero’s sonosophy at the AML Conference. After I posted my presentation proposal here, Scott also posted his, and Th. expressed his hope that we would record our papers “for the internet since that’s the only way nonattendees can be assured of hearing them later.” Th.’s request solidified my intention to record my presentation and post it online. So I packed my Samson Go Mic (love that thing!) and my laptop and sound-captured my presentation using Audacity (in case you were wondering). When I listened to the presentation later, I realized I had left some stuff out the day of and made a few additions to the audio to make up for my neglect; I also made some minor cuts where there was too much empty air or where I commented on how slow the classroom’s computer was (O, so slow!). Then I combined the audio with my Prezi, screen-captured the presentation using , and uploaded the file to YouTube.

I mention my post-conference presentation-revision process and the digital tools I used to create the video I’m sharing because I wanted to show one way in which those tools can potentially augment (and disrupt) the historical modes of critical discussion that are favored in the humanities (i.e., sustained arguments made in writing). In his introduction to the BYU student-produced anthology, Writing about Literature in the Digital Age, Gideon Burton argues that we ought to welcome such disruptions because they can awaken us to the “ongoing vitality of literature as ‘equipment for living’ in the digital age.” They can help us see and experience and share and discuss literature differently, opening the mode of literary conversations to something (potentially) more dynamic and engaging than a monograph published in a print journal with a necessarily limited base of subscribers.

My thoughts on the state of academic publishing aside, I was both excited and disheartened to learn at the AML Conference that next year’s meeting might be held in Hawaii. The move excites me because it’s an attempt to break the Jell-O Belt’s hold on the Association (and the Association’s favor for the Jell-O Belt), to move its focus beyond the continental U.S. I just hope the attempt doesn’t, Humpty Dumpty-like break the Association. Which leads me to why the move disheartens me: as I mentioned in the post where I shared my AML proposal, my wife and I look forward to our annual pilgrimage to the AML Conference; but with the conference in Hawaii next year, we can’t afford to attend. Chalk it up to student loans coming due, a pending move, a mortgage, four kids, and so on. Whatever the case, I’m sad I won’t be able to be there. Yet, our impending conference-nonattendance has had me thinking about alternatives to the time- and geography-bound conference, about ways to approximate or augment the knowledge- and community-building aspects of such conferences, to potentially include more people on the program and in the conference discussions, to move MoLit’s critical culture beyond the ways critics have traditionally made their work public. Sharing my conference presentation online (in video and audio formats) is a gesture toward those alternatives, which I hope to address more later.

Your thoughts on such alternatives and on the content and form of my presentation (which at ~43 minutes is, I know, fairly long) are welcome in the comments.

Follow this link for the audio version.

(Cross-posted here.)

An embarrassment of riches

3.24.14 | | 2 comments


Wish you were here.

Saturday, the GTU sponsored the Mormonism and Asia conference (plenary session and concluding meet-and-greet at the Berkeley Institute. Here’s an excerpt from the flyer: more

The New Mormon Fiction: Post-Faithful Directions of a Post-Utopian Form–Scott’s 2014 AML Conference Proposal

3.13.14 | | 20 comments

Following Tyler’s lead, I’ve decided to post the proposal for my AML presentation, which will be an expansion of my DBD post on “The New Mormon Fiction” from a few months back. Glenn Gordon is accepting proposals for the conference until March 20th, so if you are interested in presenting, there is still time. Based on Tyler’s proposal, and other proposals I’ve heard about, it’s going to be a great conference. 

See you there.

Mormonism has undergone significant changes over the last twenty years, leading sociologist Armand Mauss to declare that the LDS Church now has a different “feel” than it did in the 1980s and early 1990s. Among the changes has been greater transparency from the Mormon hierarchy on controversial subjects, an increase in open dialogue within Mormonism via the internet and social media, an apparent spike in faith crises, and the emergence of new sites of cultural tension.

What effect have these changes had on Mormon literature? In my presentation, I will argue that these conditions have contributed to what I call the New Mormon Fiction. Like earlier works of Mormon fiction, these works are “post-utopian” in the way they continue to reflect Mormonism’s desire to assimilate with its host cultures. However, unlike earlier examples of Mormon fiction, these works are essentially “post-faithful,” or largely unconcerned about fiction’s role as a vehicle for Mormon propaganda (of any stripe). Rather than bearing testimony, they seek to capture both the euphoria and anxiety of Mormonism in the information age.

My presentation will outline several trends that characterize the New Mormon Fiction. For instance, some works of the New Mormon Fiction are absurdist and darkly comical. Others are comprised of fictional documents, document fragments, and interviews that call into question what we know about history and narrative. Still others foreground conflicts between individuals and information rather than between individuals and the Church, its members, or the dominant culture. Collectively, my presentation will argue, these works comprise a new Mormon fiction that foregrounds acts of discovery and recovery, creative production, and paradigm subversion to disorient readers and force them to configure new realities, question long-held assumptions and notions of truth, and confront the challenges having “too much information.”