About 2.5 years ago, I read an op-ed by Jerry Johnston that stated that there will never be great Mormon Literature written by an active Latter Day Saint and subsequently blogged about it here. About the same time I attended my first Sunstone Conference and started reading more LDS essays etc. Anyway, as I feel like I'm stagnating intellectually, I've thought about tackling a large project. When Margaret Young announced a Call for Papers for the Association for Mormon Letters Annual Meeting, I thought about submitting a proposal for a paper. Well, I submitted the proposal below which was accepted.
Here's the Abstract:
Here's the Abstract:
Title: The “Great LDS Novel,” Pipedream or Future Reality?
Author: Joy Buhler
In 2009, Jerry Johnston, a columnist for the “Mormon Times,” stated that the “Great American Novel” would never be written by an active Latter Day Saint because of the demands the religion makes on the devout member. A “Great American Novel” is often defined as a work that captures the essence of being American during that time period that is written by an American Author. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain are two examples of novels that are considered great American works. Current critics agree that most novels exploring LDS themes written by active Latter Day Saints have not qualified as “Great American Novels.”
This paper analyzes the reasons Mr. Johnston gave when contending that there will never be “great” Mormon literature written by active Latter Day Saints. Mr. Johnston is correct that active LDS members tend to promote their religion and gloss over controversial topics. However, there’s a growing community of devout LDS people who are more willing to write, read and explore the “gray spaces” of the LDS religion with intent to illuminate rather than destroy the Church. Great literature comes from the minds of inquisitive thinkers who delve into topics that have no clear answer. Could the first great Mormon novel come from this community of LDS people who are examining the LDS faith, including the nebulous areas, with the intent to better understand who we are as a religion?
I've been doing a lot of reading for the paper (yes, I even read "The Gospel According to Twilight" which is written by a Methodist, not a Mormon)and asked Jerry Johnston a series of questions. He replied back to me today so his response will be incorporated in the paper.
Anyway, this is the "personal" project that I'm tackling and will be presenting my findings to individuals who know much more than I do about the subject next month.