Category Archives: Literature

Theric (and Monsters & Mormons) at SLC Comic Con Fan X

4.16.14 | | one comment

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I’ll be in Salt lake City this weekend for Fan Experience. I’ll be giving an updated version of my Mormons and comics discussion from the first SLC Comic Con which will, among other changes, mention Nathan Shumate’s Cheap Caffeine, incorporate information from a couple AML presentations (James Goldberg on The Garden of Enid, Stephen Carter on Book of Mormon comics), and the Kickstarter campaigns for iPlates and From the Dust. Mike Homer will give his presentation on representations of Mormons and Utah in comics over time. (240 seats)

Fifteen minutes before that rerun, a panel of Monsters & Mormons participants will be publicly talking about their work and what’s become of it. I’m a bit confused over the final makeup of the panel (this story is personally embarrassing, but that’s a story for another day), but expect at least seven people you definitely want to hear from. (220 seats)

Then fifteen minutes after the comics rerun, I’ll be on a Sherlock Holmes panel which I really really hope has no Mormon tie-ins. (400 seats)

Based on the numbers here, I think I should be able to take 10.75 days off teaching and still reach the same number of people. Sweet.

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Of two minds regarding Smurthwaite’s Road to Bountiful

4.9.14 | | 6 comments

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In this round of Reading the Whitney Finalists, we come to the only author I have read previously. Shortly after my mission—whether a couple months or a couple years, I’m not sure—my youngest brother recommended to me Donald S. Smurthwaite’s Do You Like Me, Julie Sloan? I don’t remember why, exactly, but it was a book he liked and he thought it would meet certain requirements I had and I don’t remember exactly what I thought, but I certainly didn’t hate it like the book I had hated the book I had previously read and for which my brother had offered Julie Sloan as a healing salve.

What I do remember is that Julie Sloan largely rose and fell on the strength of its narrative voice, and the same is true of Road to Bountiful times two. more

Three posts on The House at Rose Creek by Jenny Proctor

4.4.14 | | 4 comments

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In recent years, as a higher percentage of my reading has become decidedly “Mormon,” I have read very little published by Deseret or Covenant. I’m ashamed of my reluctance. In part I’ve been hesitant because although I hear that quality at these houses has grown vastly over the past years, I also once heard wide acclaim for Baptists at Our Barbecue by Robert Farrell Smith. And hoo boy but was that an unfunny disaster. (Sadly, this was before I started blogging every book I read, so I can’t get more specific than that.)

But as recent discussions attest (eg), coming into a genre without knowing its rules can lead to expectations failing to be met and a disappointment which might not be fair to the work under consideration (consider the recent Deseret News review I discussed here).

Why is why the first of these three posts will be: more

Notes on How to Read a Poem

4.3.14 | | 3 comments

National Poetry Month 2014
(Poster design: Chip Kidd)
Click image for PDF copy of the poster.

I’m of two minds about National Poetry Month.

In one sense, I appreciate the effort (initiated by the Academy of American Poets and institutionalized in April 1996 by President Clinton’s administration) “to highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets; [to] introduce Americans to the pleasures and benefits of reading poetry; [to] bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways; [and to] make poetry an important part of our children’s education” (ref). Even if this official celebration of poets and poetry only happens one month out of twelve and even if people binge on poems during that month but never read another poem all year, at least poetry is being celebrated, right? I can’t complain about that.

In another sense, though, I see poetry as something worth engaging every day. If America can set aside one month a year to advocate for poetry as something that can enhance and enrich “the lives of all Americans” and that “affects every aspect of life in America today, including education, the economy, and community pride and development” (ref), we should be able to make a place (no matter how small) for poetry in our everyday lives, shouldn’t we? Of course, I say this as someone deeply invested in reading and writing and writing about and advocating for poetry. So I may be a little biased.

Whatever the case, and whatever your mind is about poetry and National Poetry Month (prominent poet and critic Richard Howard once called it “the worst thing to have happened to poetry since the advent of the camera and the internal combustion engine,” two contraptions that distanced us from the beauty and rhythms of the earth), I thought I’d share some reflections on how to read a poem, whenever and however often you read one.

The following essay appears as the prologue in my book, Field Notes on Language on Kinship. My ideas (in the essay and in the book) are informed to a great degree by Patricia’s thinking on language and were sparked by her gorgeous poem “Introduction to the Mysteries (or How to Read a Poem).” (Listen to Laura’s stunning performance of Patricia’s poem here.)

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Notes on How to Read a Poem

Some years ago during an undergraduate literature course, a classmate confessed the first time our reading assignment included some poems that “Interpreting poetry is not my forte.” The student’s confession still catches my ear. I hear her/him repeating it poetically in my mind, giving it a lyric ring that comes out more when I write the sentence as if writing a poem, splitting the line after syllable seven:

    Interpreting poetry
    is not my forte.

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The First Course in Mormon Literature?

3.27.14 | | 4 comments

Howard R. DriggsAs I understand it, university-level Mormon literature courses have been taught since the late 1970s, mainly at BYU thanks to the efforts of Eugene England. In recent years the number of courses have increased, and currently exist at least at BYU, LDS Business College and Utah Valley University. And there have been courses with Mormon literature components taught elsewhere as well.

But the university level isn’t the only place where Mormon literature courses could be taught, and as I’ve already noted, the idea of using Mormon writing to teach children, at least, occurred to Parley P. Pratt quite early. Now, I’ve come across another course, this one aimed at Relief Society sisters in 1948. And this course was apparently taught—at least in some Relief Societies. Still better, its author was a recently retired English professor who had taught for 19 years at New York University.

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Love Letters of the Angels of Death by Jennifer Quist
your marriage . . . your death . . . you

3.19.14 | | 15 comments

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I was on Amazon reading about this book, no idea it was by a Mormon author, and darn near bought it. Then I remembered there’s a moratorium on Theric buying new books and since I wasn’t up to the free-shipping level I closed the tab before I could get into trouble. Then, later that day, I bounced into an email lounging in my inbox offering a free digital copy to AMV for review. And, now, here we are.

In this review, I’ll be worrying less about a holistic look at the novel (though if that happens , great; if not, just know it’s terrific) and more about looking at the striking artistic choices Quist has made. Or, in other words, we’ll be discussing passages I highlighted during my reading.

But enough about me. more

Back in the doll’s house, one woman said,
while another but smiled and shook her head.

3.17.14 | | 5 comments

. I was doing some reading about The Relief Society Magazine last week and came across this article which made me horribly melancholy for a world I never knew. I recognize that Correlation was vital in terms of managing a single faith of many languages, but some real losses accompanied those real gains, one of which was the rich literary culture of the Church’s previous generation of periodicals. I commend the article to your soul. Today on the Relief Society’s birthday however, on this, an arts site, I am writing about the article’s revelation that one of the texts recommended for sisters’ consideration and study was Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. A daring choice, it seems to me, even now when the recommendation is 80 years old, given the nervousness allegedly revealed in many Relief Society book group’s rules. From the 1934 recommendation (I have made some slight adjustments without having recourse to the original scans or much concern with its paragraphing): more

The Makar, Making, and Mormonism: Tyler’s 2014 AML Conference Proposal

3.11.14 | | 3 comments
Muta Poesis

Muta Poesis, from Le vite de’ pittori, scultori ed architetti moderni by Giovanni Bellori (Rome, 1672)

Each year, my wife and I look forward to making a pilgrimage to Orem, Utah to attend the annual Association for Mormon Letters Conference. I’ve also made it an annual practice to share my conference proposal once I’ve submitted it. In 2012, I proposed and presented “Situating Sonosophy: De/constructing Alex Caldiero’s ‘Poetarium’” and in 2013 I proposed “Performative Poesis and the (Un)Making of the World,” although my presentation was eventually titled “The Tongue as Tree of Life: Meditations on Words and the Word and the Making of the World.”

This year the conference, which will be held April 11-12 at UVU, is titled “New Faces of Mormonism: Are We Changing the Way We See Ourselves?” (*) Yesterday I submitted the following proposal, which is relevant to the Church’s recently released statement on what it means to become like God:

Alex Caldiero’s Performative Poesis: The Makar, Making, and Mormonism

Alex Caldiero’s work emerges from a rich performance ecology that consists of many different influences. One of these is the figure of the pre-modern bard, whom Caldiero calls a makar (mah-ker). Makar is the Middle English antecedent of maker, although makar is still active in the Scots language where it’s used in reference to a poet or bard [see here, especially]. Caldiero may have assumed the title in an attempt to establish kinship with a primitive (prime-itive) culture, its language, and its poetics. He may have also taken the name to skirt around the social and cultural limitations related to calling oneself a poet, including the stigma attached to practicing an art that some say is dead and that others associate with greeting card sentimentalism or the horrors of high school English. By moving to avoid these limitations (albeit at the cost of having to endure others [like being what Scott Carrier calls a "categorical conundrum"]), Caldiero becomes better able to critique common conceptions of poetry while he at the same time foregrounds the term’s origins: the word poetry derives from the Greek concept of poesis, which signifies the process of making.

Caldiero’s self-affiliation with Mormonism brings an additional level of signification to his focus on making. In particular, his poetics seem to be in conversation with Mormon theology’s teachings about Deity; these include the following:

  • First, that the Gods are Makers: they create and they procreate.
  • Second, that God isn’t a singular Entity acting as lone Creator but is part of a coterie of creative Beings acting in concert, a Community of Gods.
  • Third, that the Makers have created and peopled not just this world, this universe, but many worlds and many universes.
  • Fourth, that Creation doesn’t occur ex nihilo: rather the Makers build things from materials extant in expansive cosmos.
  • Fifth, that Creation unfolds in an eternal round: the Makers’ creative acts occur in the present progressive tense, that these Beings haven’t just created, they are creating.
  • Sixth, that humans are the Makers’ offspring; as such we have the making gene in us and by virtue of heredity and training, we can emulate our Parents and become Makers ourselves.

My paper will explore the relationships among Caldiero’s performative poesis (which he calls sonosophy) and the figures/ideas I’ve described above: the makar (the pre-modern bard), poetry as the process of making, and Gods as Makers.

(Cross-posted here.)