After my hiatus, I’m back with more ramblings on re: language and Mormonism (and the language of Mormonism). This week I spend some time exploring a moment in LDS Church history when the Word stepped in to save the day (as, frankly, He will). I mention some things that are specific to the course I’m teaching, but you should still get the gist of what I’m talking about.
After spending some time in the Books of Moses and Mormon over the past several weeks, in this installment I turn to an episode from Christ’s life and explore what it can teach us about life-giving language.
Per usual, your thoughts are welcome in the comments.
I started to comment on Tylerâ€™s post, â€œPreach on, Sister Meyer.Â Preach On.â€ Butâ€”look outâ€”the comment mushroomed.Â Adam Gâ€™s comment especially caught my attention. His question seems to be, is it possible to talk about poetryâ€”especially in terms of hierarchies and other high-falutinâ€™ standards for determining a poemâ€™s worthinessâ€”with language that doesn’t float above us like a leviathan, bomb-totin’, gas-filled bag of pretension?
I must begin this review essay, which I had great difficulty writing (for reasons that I hope become clear in my rhetorical wanderings), with a series of caveats, beginning here: I make no claims to represent the literary conscience of America or, for that matter, of Mormo-Americaâ€”neither do I feel the need to make such claims, simply because I donâ€™t believe I represent the mainstream American/Mormo-American literary consciousness or even, perhaps, that there is such a mainstream way of reading and thinking about the world. As a poet first, Iâ€™m attracted to language that, among other things, is lyrical, visceral, and deeply honest to human experience; that draws me toward deeper connection with my inner self/ves, with others, and with God. In short, I like words and combinations of words that cut to the quick, that donâ€™t simply affirm my version of reality (though sometimes thatâ€™s nice, too), but that disrupt it, that persuade me to reevaluate what I knowâ€”or think I knowâ€”about myself and the moral universe I inhabit. Continue reading “After the House Fell Silent”
Since Iâ€™ve been thinking more lately about responsible rhetoric and what my language does once it leaves my mind and my mouth, Iâ€™ve noticed a number of Mormon cultural instances in which language has been used by leaders/teachers in what I consider reckless ways. Hence this series of Airing the Rhetorical Laundry posts, which I never intended to become a series (though who knows how long it will actually last) and which have become brief explorations of moments in LDS culture where I think language has been manipulated (knowingly or not) by individuals or groups of saints in their attempts to persuade fellow laborers to greater faithfulness.
Today, Iâ€™m taking on the faulty analogies often used to convince people away from movies or books that may be good, â€œexcept for one little part.â€ Notice, first off, that I donâ€™t intend to deal with the idea of keeping our entertainment clean or with the varying degrees of readerly sensitivity, i.e., individualsâ€™ varying capacities to endure evil in the fictions they frequent. (So keep that in mind in the comments, if you will.) Rather, Iâ€™m approaching the language itself and intend to judge its merits in purely rhetorical termsâ€”that is, Iâ€™m more concerned with what work the language is actually doing than with what itâ€™s intended to do* or with whether or not we should watch this movie or read that book because of this steamy scene or that profane word. Continue reading “Airing the Rhetorical Laundry: Of Mice and Pizza”