One element often overlooked in literary history is the society at a given point in time and the relationships among participants in literature and the arts. Too often we reduce literary history to lists of books and descriptions of literary works, while giving short shrift to the relationships that may have influenced significant literature and the personalities of those who wrote literary works.
The other day when I read the following excerpt, I initially wanted to simply research the names listed, looking at what they wrote and making sure that their work hasn’t been forgotten. But I soon realized that I was also fascinated by the personalities of those mentioned and their relationships.
I’ve written before about the once great status of Mormon theatre, and the infrastructure it once enjoyed. So I was pleased to find comments about the beginning of this infrastructure from Horace G. Whitney, longtime Deseret News editor-in-chief and the paper’s drama critic. In my opinion infrastructure, broadly conceived, accounts for much of what has happened in Mormon drama over the past century. Whitney, in the article below, describes a vision of how drama could operate under the MIA and ward amusement committees (which were roughly the equivalent of the recently disbanded ward activities committees, I assume).
Do you worry about the MFA bubble that was written about in I think it was The New Yorker last year. This idea that MFAs exist to train MFA instructors and soon we’ll have more MFAs than we need?
I’m not concerned about that at all. That’s a concern that’s been around a while, and it makes sense if you think about us as a vocational school where we’re training writers who now need to get jobs as writers. One thing that is true about BYU—and I think it’s probably more true about BYU than many programs, certainly thnt the big prestige programs, certainly more than Texas-Austin or anywhere else—is that a great many of our writers aren’t planning on careers in writing. They’re good writers and they want to keep writing but for a lot of reasons that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the job market. I don’t think our writers are by and large thinking about going on to jobs in teaching.
I think a lot of them are hoping to go on to publication. That market may be oversaturated as well, but it’s oversaturated in a different way and has been for a longer time than the teaching market. more →
Stephen B Tuttle is a writer of fiction whose short stories Amanuensis and The Weather Here I am happy to recommend. After finishing his MFA and PhD in creative writing at Utah, he became what he is still: a professor at BYU. He currently represents BYU’s new creative-writing MFA on the graduate committee and has been one of the architects of that new MFA. I spoke with him in mid-May, shortly after the close of the program’s first full year.
So maybe the first question I’ld like to ask is, what is the difference between the M.A. in creative writing and the M.F.A. and why did B.Y.U. decide to upgrade? more →
Last week Mormon Artists Group announced the availability of a fine edition version of BYU Assistant Professor of Music Jeremy Grimshaw’s The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers, an account of his trip to the island to study gamelan music and subsequent efforts to start a gamelan orchestra in Utah. I’m pleased to bring you the following excerpt from the book. Tomorrow I’ll post a Q&A with Jeremy.
The fine edition version is limited to 25 copies and costs $125. You can purchase it (and read more about it) at http://mormonartistsgroup.com/ (for some reason the website doesn’t do direct links to its pages — so click on “Works” when the page loads and then The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers). Other editions of this title may become available in the future. Mormon Artists Group fine editions almost always sell out so if this does interest you and is within your means, act quickly.
From the section on unpacking the gamelan instruments when they arrive in Provo.
When the instruments arrived, I couldn’t help but notice that the unpacking party was a kind of music of its own: a polyphonic chorus of hammering, the groan of boards being forced out of square, nails squealing at the pull of crowbars. The twenty-one crates, some of them as big as refrigerators and all of them sturdy enough to protect their heavy, precious cargo on the nine thousand mile, three month- long journey from Bali, Indonesia, to Provo, Utah, put up quite a fight before giving up their contents. more →
In the interest of completism, here is the one Mormon reference in that book (or at least the only overt one I found):
It is true that a great many Christians have fallen prey to flagrantly ideological versions of the Gospel — that is to say, version of it which in one way or another play into the hands of what Saint John darkly refers to as the powers of this world. As far as I can see, there is no support in Scripture for what I believe may still be the practice at the Mormons’ Brigham Young University (I refrain from placing that last word in scare quotes), where those students or faculty members who need for medical reason to grow beards are required to carry on their persons a so-called beard card. But perhaps I have overlooked some vital antishaving verse in Luke or Matthew here. (pages 58-59)
Anyone who doesn’t like Eagleton’s style and/or core philosophies won’t enjoy this book. I derived some mild pleasure from the Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens (or Ditchkins as he calls them) take down although you have to buy in to so much of Eagleton’s social justice version of Christianity for it to really be convincing.
As for the Mormon potshot: eh, whatever. It’s sort of like the potshots on Gilmore Girls — I still find you somewhat witty and interesting, but think you’d do best to keep to what you actually know.
So I hear tell that BYU is starting an MFA in Creative Writing. My only real wonderment is why it took so long. It’s a trendy program to have and BYU, one would think, should have a vested interest in flooding the earth with good writers. This is self-evident.
Furthermore, I am hopeful that this will result in writers being treated with the same slavish love and devotion that lawyers and MBAs receive. I’m wondering if the economic crisis and Tim Flanigan might be making them rethink their institutional preference for those professions and start giving writers a shot. Surely this is the underlying message behind the new MFA program: Perhaps artists aren’t that dangerous after all. (Comparatively.) more →