A Review of Terryl Givens, People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture

Terryl Givens’ new book is an important and welcome addition to Mormon studies and will be required reading for understanding the evolution of Mormonism as a distinct culture, especially where Givens moves out of the much-explored territory of the nineteenth century and ventures into the less-explored twentieth century.

However, the book is not without flaws.


The preface is extremely brief. Aside from acknowledgments, Givens states his general purpose as follows:

“I can only insist that I made no attempt at comprehensiveness. My purpose is to plumb in tentative fashion the range of Mormonism’s intellectual and artistic productions, to see if one can find there the contours of consistent themes and preoccupations, a unity between theological foundations and history, on the one hand, and cultural production, on the other. My ambition is not to define Mormon culture, but to delineate some key components of that cultural identity as it appears through artistic and intellectual activity, from Mormonism’s origins up to the new millennium.” (viii)

Further disclaimers follow: “vast swaths of material and popular culture” have been excluded, “including folk expressions in art and music and media from furniture to quilts.” The focus instead is on “high culture” or “serious art” (viii). (Political culture and clothing, just to name two neglected areas, receive no attention in the book.)

The introduction sets the tone and establishes the framework for the rest of the book. Givens borrows his understanding of the concept of “culture” from the critic Raymond Williams, for whom it encompasses three general areas: a general habit of mind, the intellectual development of a society, and its general body of arts (xiii). These three “emphases,” then, “and their interrelationships,” Givens takes as his “particular focus.” That is, they provide the architectural structure of sorts.

A second structural component is provided by what Givens views as “unresolved tensions inherent in [Mormon] culture” (xiii); Mormonism, he suggests, “seems especially rife with paradox—or tensions that only appear to be logical contradictions” (xiv).

What are these “tensions”? Givens focuses on what he considers to be four “rich and fertile tensions, or thematic pairings, in Mormon thought,” pairings which have “inspired recurrent and sustained engagement on the part of writers, artists, and thinkers in the Mormon community.”

The first four chapters examine one by one these four fields of tension: (1) a “polarity of authoritarianism and individualism,” (2) “epistemological certainty” versus “an eternal quest” for knowledge and perfection, (3) the “disintegration of sacred distance,” which is more of a “collapse of polarities” than a “tension between them,” and (4) “exile and integration” (xiv-xv).

Part I, then, sketches the foundations of these four “paradoxes.” Part II examines “the varieties of Mormon cultural expression” from 1830 to 1890. The chapters have the following topical emphases: (5) Mormons and the life of the mind, (6) architecture and city planning, (7) music and dance, (8) theater, (9) literature, and (10) visual arts. Part III focuses on similar topics for the subsequent period, i.e., 1890 to the present: (11) life of the mind, (12) architecture, (13) music and dance, (14) theater and film, (15) literature, and (16) visual arts.

The chapters in the second and third parts each serve as useful mini-summaries of particular cultural developments for the given period. Indeed, I found this to be the most useful aspect of the book. Each of these chapters (five through sixteen) reads something like an extended encyclopedia entry: all the essential names, dates, events, and references are here, in chronological order. None of the chapters is comprehensive, of course, but each gives a useful and succinct entry into the subject at hand. Most readers of Mormon history are likely to be familiar with much of the information, but Givens offers, in an engaging tone, fascinating details and stories behind areas of Mormon culture—particularly in the realms of theater, music, and dance—that are likely to be new to many people. (Many of the main ideas and references will be familiar to readers of Givens’ earlier books.)

Despite the book’s clear usefulness, for the reasons given above, it also left me unsatisfied on a number of levels. It is imbalanced in various ways, it is long on information and short on analysis, it frequently offers on the “island view” of Mormon history, and generally takes an exceptionalist, triumphalist stance. The following comments will explain what I mean in more detail.

The first part of the book does a nice job overall of laying out the foundation of a basic Mormon cultural paradigm, including history, doctrine, scripture, belief, and practices. But the focus falls very heavily on the person and prophetic career of Joseph Smith. There is almost no discussion of whether, and how, Joseph’s ideas were disseminated, absorbed, and transformed by others, of how we might distinguish between his ideas and experiences and those of others. Yes, Joseph intended each participant in the restoration movement to be a seer in some sense (22), but surely the outcome of that intention needs to be examined, not assumed or ignored. The presentation of Mormonism in the early chapters is something of an ideal-typical one, in the Weberian sense. In addition, the first part stands on its own, and the latter two parts stand together as an independent unit. There isn’t much constructive engagement between the two.

Some of the oppositional pairs are more useful than others. Authority versus freedom is of course as old as humanity, and can be used to frame an analysis of almost any kind of human interaction. A tension more distinctive to the Mormon case, or bearing greater intellectual weight, may lend itself to greater analytical depth (the three tensions suggested by Michael Hicks on 255 may have served as a better set). The tension between pre-destination (or fore-ordination) and human agency, for example, would seem a natural choice. There may exist some tension in the pair “certainty versus searching,” but it seems an awkward choice for an oppositional framework, in part because the obvious opposite of certainty is doubt (as Givens’ analysis of Dutcher’s “God’s Army” illustrates, doubt and certainty form a profound tension in Mormonism [274f]). Givens refers to “the recurrent Mormon paradox” of “the independence and loneliness of an exiled people” (289): In what sense is this phrase a paradox? Finally, the third “tension,” as mentioned above, isn’t an oppositional pairing at all but rather a common, even universal phenomenon of human religiosity which, I think, Givens wrongly views as distinctly Mormon. In the end, I am simply not persuaded that Mormons can be called a “people of paradox” any more than anyone else.

Givens’ background as a Romanticist and literary scholar informs this book in a variety of ways, some of them subtle, others not. Samuel Coleridge gets more references than Ezra Taft Benson or Gordon B. Hinckley, William Blake gets twice as many as Richard Dutcher. It would be helpful to have Romanticism as a movement more clearly present as a specific cultural background with which Mormonism interacted; a known quantity, part of the analysis, in other words, instead of a range of literary references whose purpose often isn’t clear. (For example, to what extent does the “collapse of sacred distance” owe its roots to Romantic ideas? Givens seems to hint in this direction, but not until a rather casual comment nearly the end of the book [293].)

There is a terrific amount of information on display here, and I suspect every reader will learn something new. Yet I often wished that Givens had stopped and analyzed a claim or a quote: had probed in depth rather than rushing on to the next reference. To put the matter differently, the book doesn’t ask very many hard questions. Givens is mostly satisfied with previous explanations and theories; he could have written this book in his sleep. He takes for granted that LDS speakers receive a “high rate of responsiveness from church members, even compared to another authoritarian institution, Roman Catholicism.” His example? Abortion, which is clearly highly atypical as an example of what it means in the modern church to “follow the Prophet.” There are numerous examples of this tendency not to ask hard questions. Here are a few: Givens claims an “abiding suffusion of the miraculous in LDS religious culture” (43). Mormonism is “still young enough for the angel Moroni to seem a near-contemporary” (43). Mormon temples are “reminiscent of Solomon’s” (43). As noted above, Mormonism’s tendency to “conflate heaven and earth” is portrayed as strikingly unusual, as if other religious traditions had no means of mediation (46ff.); the claim is backed up with references to Tertullian, Nietzsche, Coleridge, and of course Rudolf Otto. A discussion of a tension between “Mormon clannishness” and “Christian brotherhood” proceeds without mentioning the complicated history of ecumenism in the twentieth century (58f.). The “world religion” claim is mentioned repeatedly, not without some pride, but without any suggestion that the concept has a history, and that the claim is much debated (e.g., 60). Prophets don’t need schooling (69), yet two pages later “knowledge is primarily to be painstakingly acquired the old-fashioned way” (71). The Book of Mormon is produced “in about three months of spontaneous, unrevised [implied: continuous] dictation” (73). “It is hard to say exactly when the art of public oratory began its rapid cultural decline in America…” (79). (Aren’t there books, articles, and theses on the history of public oratory in America?) Givens accepts without discussion the familiar claim that “the church does stand or fall on the veracity of the official version of its early history” (222). Must we take this claim for granted? Is it not possible that many people—thousands, even—find fulfillment and salvation in the church while knowing almost nothing about “the official version of its history”? Surely Givens could find some complexity in the notion that “LDS doctrine as a whole is rooted inescapably in history.” Givens claims (229f) that in the twentieth century “religion moved increasingly to the private sphere, or became compartmentalized and domesticated in the academy.” Surely such a claims needs some unpacking, or at least a source. “At least one impressive archaeological find substantiates Book of Mormon historicity,” Givens claims (234). Isn’t that a stretch? Oddly, Givens claims that it “appears unresolved” whether “dissidents like McMurrin” are “part of the Mormon intellectual tradition” (236). In the same context, Givens sides with LDS church leaders against McMurrin where far more nuance is called for (239). These and other examples suggest a need for more depth, more complexity, more analysis.<

A triumphalist tone—a “‘so there!’ attitude,” as Givens calls it, in a different context (64)—underlies the book as a whole, and irrupts occasionally with particular fervor. Do we really need to know that the Princeton Review voted BYU’s library the number one “Great College Library” in America (224)? This brochure-style enumeration of, one might say, “our many wonderful features” is closer to cheer leading than scholarship. Similarly, do the detailed academic credentials of prominent Mormon scholars really belong in the main body of the text (233)? There’s a strange “Look at us! Look how far we’ve come!” quality to all of this.

To conclude, I enjoyed the useful historical summary and many fascinating details that Givens presents in this survey-style history. Occasionally, too, there are glimpses of an authentically Mormon cultural critic in the making: instances where Givens makes a bold, original claim, or offers an unusually insightful remark, or asks a difficult question (e.g., 31, 32, 43, 61). Hopefully Givens will return, at some point in the future, to these questions for a more sustained, in-depth, original analysis.

15 Comments

Filed under Guests, LDS Church History

15 responses to “A Review of Terryl Givens, People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture

  1. TT

    Wonderful review. Thanks so much for this detailed and well-writing argument.

    I was wondering about one point you make:

    In the end, I am simply not persuaded that Mormons can be called a “people of paradox” any more than anyone else.

    I think that in principle I agree with this. All cultures are shot through with paradoxes that they must work out. At the same time, it seems that this insight has frequently been lost with respect to Mormonism. It is so often characterized by both its practitioners and outside observes as one-dimensional. I wonder if Givens should not be given some credit for at least trying to complicate this picture, even if the results are actually to show that Mormons are just like everyone else rather than Givens’s attempt to exalt Mormons as particularly complex.

  2. Vine-Ripe,

    Thanks for the thoughtful review. In regards to Given’s comment that: Mormonism… “seems especially rife with paradox—or tensions that only appear to be logical contradictions” (xiv).

    Do you agree that Mormonism seems especially rife with paradox, or do think one can find paradox where ever one looks, and Givens happens to be one of the first to look at it in the Mormon case? In other words, how much of Givens thesis is simply one sub-current of the postmodern craze to break down dichotomies? Shucks, I should have read the entire post before I started composing (I just saw where you stated, “In the end, I am simply not persuaded that Mormons can be called a “people of paradox” any more than anyone else.”). Perhaps however you can still answer the latter question posed above.

    Secondly, knowing that Givens has limited exposure to the field of religious studies, do you think he handles himself in a theoretically sophisticated way? Does he make his training in literature really work for him, or can you see the “seams”, so to speak?

  3. I must have started composing before TT posted, so pardon the overlap.

  4. Vine-Ripe Tomato

    Excellent questions (funny how they overlap).

    TT, I try to make all my arguments “well-writing” :)

    Let me expand a bit on my review, and hope to respond, at least in part, to your questions:

    I agree that Givens should be given some credit for aiming at a new kind of portrayal of the Mormons by focusing on its multi-dimensionality, or its inherent tensions. And of course any culture or society will have some kind of tensions identifiable to the scholar (as Frank M. has pointed out in the past, humanities scholars–unlike, say, economists!–like to play around with tensions and paradoxes where others might not see them, or find them particularly useful). The analysis of tensions or social strains among historians derives largely from the field of sociology. Givens refers on occasion to Thomas O’Dea’s work, which is relevant in this regard.

    The problems, as I tried to point out, are that (1) the first part of the book stands largely by itself as an essay on some identifible tensions in early Mormonism. The latter two parts are basically an independent set of essays on very straightforward, uncomplicated cultural history; (2) Are the tensions really tensions and/or paradoxes? Or are they simply “impulses”? And to what extent are they really characteristic of Mormonism in any meaningful sense?

    The whole idea behind the book seems to derive from Givens’ much-repeated notion of the “collapse of sacred distance,” which both forms the heart of this book and yet, as noted, stands oddly askew to it since it’s not really a tension at all.

    In the end, therefore, it was hard to know what to make of this book. It feels disjointed, hastily written, unfinished. The lacunae are striking: there are 11pp total on architecture in the modern church; 10pp on the life of the mind between 1844 and 1890; nothing on LDS historiography from the Pratt brothers to World War II; and one sentence on hymnody after the mid-1800s. And yet we are treated to expositions of Frankenstein, Marlowe’s Faustus, and other subjects of the author’s area of expertise. [I'm assuming my notes are correct on these claims; if not, please correct me.]

    SmallAxe’s second question is an important, and delicate, one. The main problem, as I see it, is that Givens doesn’t seem to have any significant interlocutors. His best book, I think, was his first, “Viper on the Hearth.” He was on solid ground as a literary scholar, he published some of the chapters in mainstream periodicals, and he had a large collection of anti-Mormon materials (his father’s collection, I believe) to draw on. In contrast, I don’t think much of “By the Hand of Mormon” could have been published in mainstream journals.

    Part of the problem lies with FARMS, I believe (it’s related to, but different from, the Margaret Barker Phenomenon; expect a post on that shortly). Dan Peterson, Noel Reynolds and others have repeatedly lauded Givens’ work–Reynolds called it “a gift to our community,” if I remember correctly. Peterson and others have also repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that Givens publishes with Oxford (frequently called “prestigious” in FARMS publications), as if that fact somehow in itself bestowed academic merit to the book. The reality is a bit more complicated. Of course it’s an honor to have books on Mormonism published with OUP. Of course one should expect high standards from a well-regarded press like OUP. But OUP is a massive corporation; it exists to make money. (Trust me, I’ve read their annual reports. The revenue and growth levels are astonishing.) Givens’ books sell. They sell very well, compared with similar academic titles. The fact that OUP has published Givens’ books does not in itself mean that the books are highly regarded by the non-Mormon academic community. That’s the point. Moreover, non-academics may not fully realize the complexity of the academic book market. As R. Bushman points out in his recent “Author’s Diary,” the top press for his field is Knopf. So it is in each field of scholarship. I imagine that Givens’ work would not have been published, for example, by Harvard or Princeton or Yale University Press.

    Which brings me back to the question of interlocutors: I wish that Givens’ editors had pushed him to create a stronger, more integrated manuscript, one that draws on more mainstream scholarship in religious studies, American religious history, American history, and other relevant fields. I wish the book had a tighter focus and engaged current questions or debates in these fields.

    All of that said, the publication of books on Mormonism by OUP certainly is a sign of a gradual mainstreaming of Mormon studies, which is a welcome thing indeed. Looking back, Shipps’ book from 20 years ago, “Mormonism,” has very serious flaws, and draws on a very narrow range of literature, yet was heralded as a breakthrough in Mormon studies, primarily for the freshness of tone and viewpoint that it offered, for managing to say something different from previous historians. I think there are parallels between these two particular moments in the ongoing evolution of Mormon studies.

  5. Matt W.

    I am wondering if you also checked out Givens’ Latter-day Saint exerience in America” a few years back? I found it to be an exceptional and exemplary introduction to the faith. I have to admit I like Givens, for his ability to give information and also for the beauty with which he can turn a phrase. However, I am not sure I would be interested in reading about “mormon high art anc culture”.

  6. Thanks for this review. I look forward to reading Givens. I don’t have the breadth of reading in Mormon studies or the training in cultural studies to know how unique (or exceptional) Mormon culture is. But it seems to me that, at least for the latter part of the 20th century, in particular the 1970s on, the cultural environment was somewhat unique. All cultural movements that have some sort of religio-ethnic-national component wrestle with the questions of a) what makes us unique and how do we express that uniqueness and b) which of our artists are in or out of the group — what do we want them to be/do?

    But Mormonisms semi-successful integration into modern American culture (and ability to pass in that culture), the strength of the institutional aspects of the LDS Church, the environment of BYU, the development of the Mormon publishing market and the ability of Mormons to navigate the meritocratic aspects of late 20th century America do make for some sort of unique environment for artists and artistic creation.

    African-Americans (and other hyphenated Americans) don’t have the same looming presence of a strong institution that determines (in some ways) who is in and who is out. Yes, there are institutions that fulfill that function in these other communities, but not in the way the LDS Church does. Those groups that may have very close ties to a religion that may function more like the LDS Church than, say, the NAACP does, such as Armenian-Americans, Greek-Americans and Muslim-Americans don’t have the cultural market that Mormonism does and don’t have a dominant geographical location (the way Utah functions for Mormons). Conservative (or whatever term you want to use) Christians have a publishing/bookselling system quite similar to ours and sort of have some clear dividing lines about what it takes to be in or out but don’t have a unified looming institution like the LDS Church and don’t have the same relationship and history with America that Mormons that we do (for all that some Mormons and many conservative Christians have arrived in the same place in terms of media consumption).

    I’m not sure I could express this all in a way that would be convincing. And I think that in many cases what I would call our “folk” claims to uniqueness are not all the unique. But I still wonder if there is something there. Or in other words, once you strip Mormon culture of the Jello references and the pioneer stories, etc., the way in which it works may still be a bit different than national, ethnic and religious cultures, a strange hybrid, perhaps.

  7. TT

    I just want to reiterate that I have been thinking about this review all weekend. I think that William makes some interesting points and I would like to hear more about what you think on this topic. I would also love for you to expand on some of the things that you suggested in your review, such as a cultural reflection on Mormon dress.

    A few more questions:
    1) Why is that 19th century studies of Mormonism tend to focus on the “great men [and women]” of Mormonism, yet 20th century studies of Mormonism tend to focus more on culture? This seam is exemplified in Givens’s book, as you note. Is there a difference in training b/t those who are studying the 19th and 20th c?
    2) In my casual conversations, Givens’ thesis about paradox and “divine distance” has had made a big splash. I think that your comparison of a this book to Shipps is a good analogy. Both books are problematic, but we are forever indebted to them. [I guess that is not really a question]
    3) I think that your insistence on the issue of a genealogy of Mormonism’s ideas about divine distance is important. I think that we often grossly mischaracterize the broader theological tradition with reductionistic statements about divine distance in Western culture. For instance, as Mormons we tend to forget that that one guy, you know, Jesus Christ, is the figure who closed divine distance for most other Christians through the Incarnation and Atonement. This theological problem was not uniquely addressed by Mormons, but is perhaps the fundamental problem that Christianity addresses and we do an injustice by not recognizing that.

  8. Just a side note on Romanticism:

    This is probably obvious to most readers of the book, but if we look at Orson F. Whitney as the chief, early theorist of what Mormon literature should be (the home literature movement), and then look at his influences (the Romantics, esp. the Romantic poets and esp. Byron), and then if we trace the home literature line up through the Covenant/Deseret Book-published genre fiction of the past 3 decades, I think it’s quite clear that Romanticism is a dominant strain in Mormon culture. Of course, one could argue that it’s also dominant in most popular American culture which leads us back to the uniqueness problem again.

    However, it may be that the way this Romanticism is expressed is unique because a) parts of Mormon culture (and these are the parts that shop at DB and thus support the vast majority of Mormon-oriented cultural products) are more culturally conservative than, say “mainstream” American culture AND b) Mormons have (somewhat) unique views of the nature of agency and the divine origin and potential of individuals.

    I wonder, for example, how the Mormon romance novel has changed over the past 120 or so year in comparison to the mainstream American market.

    I also wonder how the Mormon post-apocalyptic thriller differs from the fundamentalist Christian one.

    Not that I’m willing to take on those projects — I have others that I find more interesting.

    I will say this: anecdotally, it appears that Mormon poets (both experienced and inexperienced ones) are more interested in traditional forms (and in the epic) than other poets.

  9. Vine-Ripe Tomato

    William and TT, Great questions and comments. Thanks.

    TT, I don’t think your observation under (1) is necessarily true, but perhaps it is, or perhaps that’s the direction of the trend (which would be a welcome one). Note, though, that recent seminal works on the twentieth century have continued the Great Man emphasis in Mormon history (e.g. biographies of SW Kimball and DO McKay). Quinn’s work on the 20th century, too, focuses on male elites, ie Great Men (Them’s the Deciders after all!). An important starting point for 20th century Mormon history is Jan Shipps’ recent essay in the journal Church History. I’ve heard she’s working on a history of Mormonism in the 20th century.

    The differences between studies of Mormonism in the 19th and 20th centuries will have several reasons, which should become more clear and better developed as the 20th century becomes more closely examined. The Great Man approach will never go away, I think, because of the prophetic emphasis and long-standing historiographical and theological traditions.

    I do hope we see more work done on 20th century Mormon culture, but that’s not an easy area to work on. Pre-assimilationist Mormonism is simply so much more interesting, both to Mormon and non-Mormon scholars, that it will continue to receive the bulk of attention. Mormons today are so much like evangelical Protestants that they deflect interest. (This is an important point to consider that often goes neglected in all the hoopla over the rise of Mormon studies, its supposed popularity at non-Utah, non-LDS schools, etc.)

    Regarding your comment (2), I don’t have much to add to what I said in earlier posts, but I agree that the “divine distance” argument can be useful in certain contexts, e.g., in trying to explain to others what a Mormon prophet is, specifically in the context of Joseph Smith. Our non-LDS friends often start thinking of possible analogues–Buddha? Muhammad? Christ? Mary Baker Eddy?–what kind of a “prophet” exactly was Joseph Smith? A mystic?

    (Incidentally, I was puzzled by R. Bushman’s assertion in Rough Stone Rolling that those in Joseph Smith’s milieu, being familiar with the Bible, should have better grasped the prophetic element of his calling, since it was in some ways a continuation or replication of the role of prophets in the Bible. That argument doesn’t make much sense to me.)

    Fully agreed with your point (3). In addition, Givens completely distorts the picture by, on the one hand, comparing the material element of early LDS religion with the abstract formulations of the philosopher Rudolf Otto, and on the other hand, obscuring the extent to which the conceptual framework behind “collapsing sacred distance” relied upon contemporary cultural ideas. So there are both historical and philosophical questions here.

    A third problem that I’m still thinking about in this regard is one of historical exigencies. Every new religious tradition, I would think, has to settle questions on community and worship style, which often affects architecture and the organization of physical space (Muhammad’s designs for early mosques are a good example). Of course Joseph’s contemporaries were not having visions about buildings and urban design, because these matters had long been settled in their traditions! The materiality of the plates is a completely different matter, I think, and these various purported instances of the “collapse” shouldn’t be lumped together. But again, religions throughout the ages have known various expressions of popular piety that have often incorporated material objects and other instances where the divine has hardly been “distant.” But the rich and abundant literature on material religion is simply disregarded by Givens, as far as I can tell, because it contradicts–or at least qualifies–much of his argument, and makes the LDS case less unique. That’s the most serious deficiency in his approach, I would say.

  10. Sadly, it appears a long comment I wrote a couple of days ago didn’t take. I think it’s the fault of my ancient home computer.

    I won’t try and recreate it, but I’ll mention my point in brief.

    VRT writes: “I do hope we see more work done on 20th century Mormon culture, but that’s not an easy area to work on. Pre-assimilationist Mormonism is simply so much more interesting, both to Mormon and non-Mormon scholars, that it will continue to receive the bulk of attention.”

    I think this is spot on. Here’s an example:

    I think it could be very interesting to look at the development of the Mormon romance novel (beginning with the late 19th century Mormon courtship stories that mirrored a similar stories trend in mainstream America) in comparison to the development of the mainstream American romance novel. I wonder if certain aspects of Mormon theology and history (polygamy, agency, eternal marriage, pre-existence) lead to any interesting and/or significant differences between the Mormon and the mainstream novels (and how those markets developed). In a similar vein, it might be interesting to compare Christian end times novels with Mormon ones (although you have a much smaller body of work and time period to work with there).

    I’m not really equipped to do this type of project. But even if I was, I’m not sure I would want to because my fear is that I’d do all the research and end up with no real differences.

    This is not to say that I couldn’t come up with post-assimilationist literary criticism projects that would be interesting and potentially fruitful (and I think that literary criticism is one area where the late 20th century is as interesting as earlier periods because the 1970s to present are where the market for Mormon-oriented creative work has really exploded). But it would be useful to have some frameworks to talk about the earlier periods. The closest we really have is Eugene England’s four historical periods.

  11. I should also add that there are some problems with England’s four historical periods — the most glaring ones being that

    a) the home literature movement didn’t really go away and we still need an accounting of what it did during the years 1930-1970 and how it influenced the development of the Mormon genre market

    b) the faithful realism period designation ignores the genre market (and esp. doesn’t account for the special Mormon genre case of speculative fiction)

    c) it places too much emphasis on novels — other creative narrative forms (most especially memoir, short story and film) may have had as much as an influence on the field, certainly short stories as part of the home literature movement and film during the past 8 years.

    Somewhere I have an essay about all this. I’ll have to see if I can track it down and adapt it for a post on A Motley Vision.

  12. TT

    william,
    for some reason your earlier comment (#8) was in our spam catcher and I just found it when you mentioned that your comment didn’t show. Sorry about that.

  13. Russell Stevenson

    I think that Givens’ point (at least to me as another Joe Schlunk reader) is that Mormonism typically HAS NOT been viewed as a paradoxical religion by its adherents. At best, its seen as part of the conservative juggernaut, devoid of any intellectual contributions. Givens’ wants to provide a statement of those intellectual contributions, even if it means that we have faced the same intellectual problems as everyone else. That alone (given Mormons’ views of exceptionalism) is a remarkable argument.

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