Category Archives: Uncategorized

“The Split House” by Annie Poon

5.29.16 | | no comments

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Center Street in Provo is swiftly becoming the happen’est locale in Mormon arts. Pioneer Book has been hosting the monthly Mormon Lit Discussion Group and, more pertinent to this post, Writ and Vision has been hosting some great events and filling its gallery with provocative art.

Opening next weekend: Annie Poon.

Not being in Utah, I can’t speak much to the show (though I’ve seen the catalogue and it looks swell), but Annie gave me access to her new short film playing at Writ and Vision so let’s talk about that, shall we?

TheSplitHouse_00

It’s just under five minutes long and, thematically, strikes me as a cross between “Runaway Bathtub” and “Annie’s Circus“—and certainly it shares with those films its surrealism. (Aside: I don’t mean surreal, as it often seems to be used today, in the sense of Dalíesque—but, as Breton said, from the position of believing that “pure dreaming . . . is not inferior to the sum of the moments of reality.” All three of these films engage in a fluidity associated more with dreams than the empirical world, and all three of them find their truths through breezing past the strict requirements of realism.

Annie’s cut-out animation encourages viewer identification with her characters. Their ink-on-paper simplicity also connects us to childhood. While with “Runaway Bathtub” this connection is explicit and unbroken, even the “adult” characters of “Annie’s Circus” or “Split House,” by virtue of their medium of presentation, are as safe to identify with as a child. We haven’t all been owls, but the childlike innocence implicit in even her most dangerous characters, makes them as easy to identify with.

As the title suggests, “The Split House” includes various instances of characters splitting. When the woman transforms into an owl, for one. Here are two more: more

We Came to Earth to Fail
the deluxe Studio C fireside recap

3.25.16 | | no comments

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Having two new visitors swing by AMV to engage on a single post doesn’t happen as much as it used to. And so their desire for more of my notes regarding the Studio C fireside seem worth heeding.

That said, if you’re new to Motley Vision, look around a bit! Here’s a brief smattering of posts from the past few months—promise me you’ll click on at least one (they’ll open in a new tab):

Okay. Now that that’s open and waiting for you, let’s go on, shall we? more

“Sometimes in the arena you look really stupid.”
a report from the Studio C fireside

3.17.16 | | 5 comments

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Note: don’t forget your Saturday deadline!

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It’s just down the 880 from me, but somehow I’ve never heard of the Silicon Valley Comic Con and so I didn’t know this was happening:

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And because I somehow finally managed to unsubscribe from the golf-for-MBAs-laden BYU Alumni email list, I didn’t know about this either:

studio c

But Mormons morming as well as they do, I heard about both. And my kids were insanely excited to drive over to Temple Hill this evening to see their current favorite YouTubers. (This is a lie. Their actual favorites are these guys.)

I knew about Studio C when they were nascent, by which I mean I knew they grew out of Divine Comedy. But when I was at BYU, there were so many comedy troupes one tended to pick favorites and feel loyal. I picked Garrens because they were defunct and so cost me very little in time or money. And so, you know, screw Divine Comedy.

This disinterest was a bit embarrassing when I was at a movie-meeting-thingey and the biggest person in the room suggested Mallory of Studio C to play Ref. I . . . had no idea who they were talking about. After they flew me home, I watched all of Mallory I could on YouTube and agreed she should at least be auditioned. Then the whole thing fell apart la de la da and that was the last I thought about Studio C until Scott Sterling took the world by storm. My kids loved Scott Sterling and a month or two ago it occurred to them to watch more Studio C. Since then, it seems that’s all we watch together.

Anyway. 269 words and we still haven’t arrived in Oakland. Let’s go, shall we? more

A review of Rachel McClellan’s “Escape to Eden,” and why we should advocate for LDS Commercial fiction

1.23.16 | | 10 comments

My last post was about LDS literary fiction. I discussed the fact that it’s difficult to place, and difficult to find an audience for; partly because literary fiction tends to have a much more limited audience in general than commercial fiction and partly because those who would consume LDS literary fiction (other than those of us already knee deep in the world of LDS arts) don’t seem to have easy access to it, or knowledge of it.

Today I want to turn this topic on its head, review a commercial LDS novel, and talk about why LDS commercial fiction is an important element of our culture. more

Karamesines’ Pictograph Murders, and the Dilemma of LDS Literary Fiction Writers

1.1.16 | | 45 comments

The way I see it, In the world of LDS arts, we are a small family, and we have to take on multiple roles. Artist, critic, reviewer, publicity-generator, awareness-raiser… sometimes it can feel a little self-indulgent, or even dangerous, taking on these multiple roles.

Those who review books (influencing sales and ratings) often are those who choose which books are finalists in the Whitneys or AMV awards, for instance. And we all know each other. We’re all friends. It can be tricky. For instance, I have not yet had the courage to review Love Letters of the Angel of Death, even though I loved the book and feel it is an important work on the frontier of LDS literary fiction, simply because it was a finalist with my own novel in contest for an LDS arts award.

But, you see, we all need to do it. Review, create art, be friends, advocate for each other, etc. This often means putting on hats very carefully.

So here’s me, very self-consciously putting on my critiquer’s hat. I’m not speaking from a place of wisdom and skill as a novelist. Patricia Karamsesines is a consummate writer, far more developed than I am. My own novels are fluff in comparison. It’s true–they’re fluff. Though I do aspire to sell the sort of writing Patricia has had published, I’m a bit more mercenary, willing to collect an audience through the means of writing more commercial kinds of fiction for a while. So my skills and development as a writer have been directed toward things like plotting, keeping a pulse on the market and trying to come up with a story that might sell while still (sometimes clumsily) spoon-feeding unusual ideas and philosophy and things important to me. My focus has been not so much what I have wanted to focus on: , making an important theme a central message and refining flow and word choice, and continually making my writing more spare and beautiful… all the things that just make you have to stop and breathe for a moment when you read a poem (or novel) of Karamesines’. more

Extended Deadline: Mormon LitCrit Anthology

12.2.15 | | one comment

The deadline for submission to my new anthology of essays on Mormon literature was yesterday, but I am extending the deadline to the end of the year. I received several promising submissions, but I sense that some people either missed the original CFP and need more time to submit their work.

For the benefit of those who are just now hearing about this project, here is the original announcement:

Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of Eugene England and Lavina Fielding Anderson’s Tending the Garden: Essays on Mormon Literature. As the first anthology of Mormon literary criticism, it was an important step forward in the development of Mormon literary studies and served a generation of scholars well.

Unfortunately, while the essays in Tending the Garden remain useful, the volume itself has become outdated. Over the last two decades, Mormon literature and literary studies have evolved in surprising ways, thanks in part to the ongoing efforts of the Association for Mormon Letters and the rise of the internet. Indeed, as foretold by Lavina Fielding Anderson in her preface to Tending the Garden, the internet has allowed discussions of Mormon literature to extend beyond the borders of the Wasatch Front, introducing fresh insights and enabling a more global understanding of Mormon literature. Moreover, it has allowed scholars, authors, and enthusiasts of Mormon literature from around the world to feel a sense of community and engage actively in the ongoing development of Mormon literature and Mormon literary studies.

In light of recent anthologies of short Mormon fiction, Mormon poetry, and Mormon drama, I am putting together a new anthology of Mormon literary theory and criticism to be published by Peculiar Pages. The first part of the anthology will collect essays from the last twenty years about theoretical and practical approaches to writing and analyzing Mormon literature, while the second part will collect essays from the same time period about specific Mormon texts or literary trends.

To find these essays, I will be going through back issues of the AML Annual, Irreantum, DialogueSunstone, and other periodicals that have published on Mormon literature. I will likewise be drawing from blogs like A Motley Vision and Dawning of a Brighter Day for significant posts that have advanced our understanding of the field. However, I am also extending a call for papers to gather any previously published or unpublished material that may be out there.

Essay submissions should address Mormon literature and be no longer than 10,000 words. The collection seeks to examine Mormon literature broadly, so essays about literary works by or about Mormons will be considered, even if the literary works themselves have no overt Mormon content. For a submission to receive full consideration, however, it should approach these works as Mormon literature or expressions of Mormon thought.

Send inquiries and submissions to scotthales80(at)gmail(dot)com.

Again, the revised deadline in January 1, 2016.

 

CFP: Announcing a New Anthology of Essays on Mormon Literature

7.28.15 | | 6 comments

596219Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of Eugene England and Lavina Fielding Anderson’s Tending the Garden: Essays on Mormon Literature. As the first anthology of Mormon literary criticism, it was an important step forward in the development of Mormon literary studies and served a generation of scholars well.

Unfortunately, while the essays in Tending the Garden remain useful, the volume itself has become outdated. Over the last two decades, Mormon literature and literary studies have evolved in surprising ways, thanks in part to the ongoing efforts of the Association for Mormon Letters and the rise of the internet. Indeed, as foretold by Lavina Fielding Anderson in her preface to Tending the Garden, the internet has allowed discussions of Mormon literature to extend beyond the borders of the Wasatch Front, introducing fresh insights and enabling a more global understanding of Mormon literature. Moreover, it has allowed scholars, authors, and enthusiasts of Mormon literature from around the world to feel a sense of community and engage actively in the ongoing development of Mormon literature and Mormon literary studies.

In light of recent anthologies of short Mormon fiction, Mormon poetry, and Mormon drama, I am putting together a new anthology of Mormon literary theory and criticism to be published by Peculiar Pages. The first part of the anthology will collect essays from the last twenty years about theoretical and practical approaches to writing and analyzing Mormon literature, while the second part will collect essays from the same time period about specific Mormon texts or literary trends.

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Mormon literary criticism’s chicken and egg problem

12.18.14 | | 8 comments

After Scott Hales post here at AMV responding to Michael Austin’s survey of the current state of Mormon literary criticism at the Mormon Studies Review, the two scholars engaged in a back and forth Q&A at the Maxwell Institute’s blog, which mainly functioned as a way for Austin to respond to Hales’ critique of the focus of Austin’s survey. What his responses show is that his primary concern, and why he is focused on peer-reviewed publications, is that for him traditional scholarship is the best measure of Mormonism’s influence on the broader field as well as a signpost of Mormon cultural impact on/penetration in the broader culture and that too much of the current Mormon cultural production (literature and literary criticism) is inwardly focused.

Hales pushes back a little on that emphasis, specifically pointing out the lack of institutional support (especially from BYU) for Mormon literary criticism.

Austin responds with: “This is sort of a chicken-and-egg problem. I have long felt (and I said this in my 1995 article too) that institutional support will follow more peer-reviewed publications”.

I think he is absolutely correct in the case of Mormon literary criticism.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The gains made in the study of non-canonical literatures — Hispanic, Jewish, Greek, LGBT, women’s writing, etc. — at academic institutions came out of direct activism and focus on the community and specific academic resources investment (often hard fought to get) in those fields. Works became canonical and publishing opportunities opened up specifically as a result of that inward focus.

To give an example, and one that he’s probably uncomfortable with, but the pivot that Gideon Burton made towards Mormon literature studies that was unsupported (actively discouraged) by BYU and led to him having to pivot back away from is similar to pivots that were sometimes (but, admittedly, not always) supported in the 1970s/80s, as English professors whose Ph.D. may have been in Renaissance literature or early Modernism began to develop an interest in minority literatures. I don’t have a full accounting of that at my finger tips. And I know that it led to tensions and wars among faculty and between faculty and administration, etc. But it also led to a certain measure of institutional support and then when that proved successful to specific hiring for positions as well as fundraising to support the lecture series, publications, endowed chairs, joint appointments, conference travel, curriculum development, etc. that generate the kind of activity that leads to peer-reviewed essays and book deals with top university presses, etc.

Right now much of the work being done in Mormon literature studies is amateur. It’s very difficult to generate non-amateur scholarly work without some form of support.

I understand that BYU et. al. are loathe to support what is viewed as a fledgling field without much currency in the academic market. But I think if they took a hard look at how cultural studies fields have been legitimized over the past four decades, they’d find that just sitting around waiting for the national figures to appear before they through some weight behind them (and BYU sure is happy to do so when that happens) is a sure way to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride.

Now, I recognize that times have changed in academic and that some of the gains that minority literatures/cultural studies made have since been clawed back, but in that messy process, some gains were permanently made and the larger conversation was changed and most importantly a larger body of work was created as a result.