Nephi Anderson at SASS

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Given the response to (though not the attendance at) the Nephi Anderon panel at this year’s annual conference of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, our feeling that an Anderson resurgence is inevitable and not far off is fully cemented. Anderson’s hour is now. Or at least a couple days from now. And the father of modern Mormon Literature is about to get his due.

Which makes this an apropos moment to reannounce our edition of Dorian. We are still seeking critical and scholarly responses to the novel to accompany those we have already received.

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Dorian Trent at the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies

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The editor of Peculiar Pages’ forthcoming edition of <i>Dorian</i> and two other scholars of Nephi Anderson (at least one of whom will make appearances in our volume) are presenting at the premier conference for the study of all things Scandinavian, being held the first weekend of May in San Francisco. Behold:

Nephi Anderson, Mormonism’s Norwegian-American Novelist

In 1898, Norwegian-American Nephi Anderson was one of the first Mormons to publish a novel in book form. Over the next twenty years, he published nine novels and several short stories, a number of which he set in his native Norway. At his untimely death in 1923, he was recognized throughout Utah as the premier Mormon man of letters. By the 1970s, however, all but one of his books were out of print and his reputation suffered as a rising generation of Mormon literary critics dismissed the apparent sentimentality and didactic quality of his work.

This panel represents a growing number of scholarly reappraisals of Anderson. Rather than focusing on the aesthetic merits of his work, as previous scholars have, we intend to focus on his Scandinavian-American roots and how they informed his contributions to early Mormon fiction. Sarah Reed argues against existing scholarship to show that Anderson’s works belong to Norwegian-American literature as they explore the intersection of the Norwegian immigrant and American Mormonism. Scott Hales examines Anderson’s construction of Mormon masculinity in light of the Mormonism’s 1890 abandonment of polygamy and contemporaneous Nordicist racial discourse. Eric Jepson, a publisher of Mormon fiction who is preparing a new edition of Anderson’s Dorian (1921), describes how Anderson’s place as a Norwegian-American writer was lost as Mormons and Norwegian immigrants became more assimilated into American society in the twentieth century, and outlines efforts to bring his works to today’s scholars and readers.

With this panel, we hope that our revisionist approach to Anderson will help reinstate him as a Norwegian-American writer and give his long-overlooked contribution to Mormon and Scandinavian-American fiction the recognition it has so far evaded.

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“Nephi Anderson and Norwegian-American Literature: Toward a Transnational Mormon Identity”

 Sarah Reed

University of Wisconsin–Madison

Several of Mormon immigrant Nephi Anderson’s stories and novels have significant Norwegian or other Scandinavian elements. Despite these characters and settings, scholars of Norwegian- and Scandinavian-American literature have neglected this prolific and regionally popular author.  In the only relevant study, Ole Podhorny argues that Nephi does not count as an immigrant author because he is not “concerned with questions of Norwegian cultural heritage” and his “religious roots were deeper than his cultural roots” (78). In this presentation, I will offer a critical reevaluation of Anderson’s works to show their place in Scandinavian-American or “immigrant” literature. I claim Nephi Anderson does count as an “immigrant” author and is concerned with preserving Norwegian cultural heritage as it intersects with his understanding of Mormonism—his “roots” intertwine rather than compete. Anderson uses Mormon cosmology to inscribe Norway into its sacred narrative and America and Norway do not compete in his stories, but contribute to the long history of building God’s kingdom on earth. As such, Anderson offers Mormonism as a transformative and transnational identity that he employs to legitimize Norwegian (and Scandinavian more broadly) participation in this American religion while simultaneously subverting its Anglo-American custodianship.

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“Nephi Anderson and the New Mormon Masculinity”

 Scott Hales

University of Cincinnati

 Throughout the nineteenth century, Mormon self-representation rarely succeeded in overturning the enormously influential negative representations of Mormons in novels like Alfreda Eva Bell’s Boadicea; The Mormon Wife (1855) and Cornelia Paddock’s The Fate of Madam La Tour (1881), which often cast Mormons as a heathen and degenerate people. In these novels, Mormon men particularly were caricaturized as ignorant, amoral brutes with a thirst for blood and sex. This caricature went almost unchallenged in nineteenth-century fiction, and due to a cultural aversion to fiction, Mormon creative writers seldom responded to it until the early twentieth century, when Mormon masculinity found an unlikely champion in a bookish Norwegian-American named Nephi Anderson.

For my presentation, I will explore how Anderson used the novel to construct a new Mormon masculinity. Specifically, I will look at his novels The Castle Builder (1902), set in Norway, and Dorian (1921), set in Utah, to show how he reconfigured Mormon masculinity following the 1890 Mormon disavowal of polygamy and other practices that set Mormonism apart from mainstream American culture. I will also explore the possibility that Anderson’s concept of masculinity was influenced by Nordicist ideas that were common in the racial discourse of his day.

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“Lost to Assimilation: Rehabilitating Nephi Anderson,
Mormon Norwegian-American Writer”

 Eric W. Jepson

Peculiar Pages 

Mormon assimilation into general American society during the twentieth century resulted in a loss of literary tradition. When a church-owned publisher began offering novels in the late 1970s, many felt something unprecedented was occurring, even though Mormon novels had existed for decades and Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon (1898), the first published Mormon novel, had never been out of print.

Added Upon’s cultural influence is still apparent to those able to recognize it, but few can. This loss of cultural literacy parallels those of other American minorities, such as Anderson’s fellow Norwegian immigrants, who come to America and within a generation or two are no more likely to have Wergeland on their shelves than Anderson.

In my presentation, I will discuss how Anderson’s reputation is undergoing a reevaluation. I am currently compiling an edition of Dorian that will include essays on the novel and its place in Mormon history, what it has to say about Mormon assimilation, Anderson’s place as a Norwegian-American and Mormon-American author; Anderson’s own essays on literary philosophy; comparisons between the manuscript and typescript; and notes on the text itself. This and other current efforts are heralds of Anderson’s to relevance and are paving the way for later scholarship on this largely forgotten Norwegian-American novelist.

AML Awards recognize Tyler Chadwick

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Tyler Chadwick, of course, is the editor of the Peculiar Pages volume Fire in the Pasture.

The Association for Mormon Letters has just, mere moments ago at their annual awards luncheon, given “Award for Excellence in Anthological Editing.”

It could not be more deserved. If you haven’t read it yet, buy your copy today.

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Also awarded today was Mike Allred for his body of work. He’s one of the greats. And he’s also, recall, the guy who said this:

Isn’t it incredible that existence even exists?  So much is taken for granted, right?  For anyone that ever wanted to crack open their consciousness to what might be beyond the beyond, MORMONS &MONSTERS could be the read for you.

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Perhaps other friends of Peculiar Pages were rewarded today? Haven’t heard yet. Excited to.

AML Conference

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If you’re in Utah this weekend, be sure to check out the following Peculiar Pages-related sessions of AML’s annual conference on Saturday, April 21:

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9am

Tyler Chadwick, editor of Fire in the Pasture, presenting on “Situating Sonospophy: Deconstructing Alex Caldiero’s Poetarium.” Alex, of course, is both the subject of Tyler’s dissertation and a poet included in Fire.

1130am

Scott Hales, a contributor to our upcoming Dorian project is presenting “Beyond Missionary   Stories: Voicing the Transnational LDS Experience”; I suspect this paper will share some ground with his incredible paper for us. Not a lot. But a little.

1pm

Awards luncheon.

230pm

Angel Chaparro Sainz who wrote the afterword to Fire in the Pasture, brings  AML his expertise on one of the great essayistsin “Phyllis Barber: There is Love After All.”

230pm, 4pm (sorry this is stretched—-site redesign on the way!)

630pm

Reception with readings by AML-award winners at the home of Charlotte England.

Tyler Chadwick launches new website to promote Fire in the PasturePlus: two upcoming events

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Fire in the Pasture editor Tyler Chadwick has launched http://fireinthepasture.org/ which,to be frank, puts this current incarnation of PeculiarPages.com to shame. It’s lovely and chokkefulle of poetry, analysis, poet info, et cetera. Highly recommended for your Mormon-poetry needs.

Meanwhile, the Fire in the Pasture Facebook page (which I presume you’re already following) has just announced two new upcoming readings. Can’t miss stuff, if you’ll be in the appropriate part of the world: https://www.facebook.com/events/283342811746111/

Both pages are updated regularly.

Monsters & Mormons as a founding document of the Mormon Renaissance

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. . . the Latter-day Saints are a minority with a vibrant subculture which has an inherent value, just like any other minority. The interesting thing about the Mormons as a minority is that the defining characteristic of the people is not ethnicity, language or place, and that the faith is the only binding factor that this global group has – yet it is strong enough to form an identity and a sense of community or of united group.

In such a varied collection, it is difficult to pick favourites, but I definitely enjoyed the approach of “something strange or horrifying invades the every-day” rather than the imagines worlds of tomorrow (or yesterday): “Other Duties” by Nathan Shumate tells of a bishop whose ward has a special calling: to battle demons; “Charity Never Faileth” by Jaleta Clegg is a story of the carelessness with which some Mormon women treat the unique opportunities to care for and serve one another, and the monstrous consequences that carelessness can have – and Green Jell-O of course; “The World” by Danny Nelson is possibly the most delightful description of the insides of a contemporary Mormon’s head; and “The Eye Opener” by Brian Gibson -which is really close to being my very favourite – tells of what goes on during a prayer, that strange time when no one is looking up . . . .

Come read the latest review—and the first by a Finn—in full at Elftown.

Five days from now, in Salt Lake City

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On the 25th at Ken Sanders Rare Books (map), Fire in the Pasture‘s editor Tyler Chadwick will be leading readings from the book.  Among the poets likely to appear at this substantial event are E.S. Jenkins, Elizabeth Pinborough, Lisa Bickmore, Alan Mitchell, Alex Caldiero, Sunni Wilkinson, Danielle Dubrasky, Sarah Duffy, Marie Brian, Laura Nielson Baxter, (Paul Swenson*), and Michael Hicks.

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Paul Swenson’s health failed him since he told us he would be part of this event. His presence will be missed. To quote from his final email to us,

I’ll be around for the Ken Sanders reading, and would be honored to participate.

I’m still on the  journey to full health, but determined to get all the way back. The book is one hell of an achievement.

Thank you, Paul. It meant a lot, coming from you.

Requiescat in pace.

Tomorrow! Today! I can’t read calendars!

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If you are in Utah Valley, head on down to UVU and check out Life, the Universe & Everything. Always a blast, natch, this year will be even better with a Monster & Mormons session led by none other than Nathan Shumate and featuring Dan Wells! Eric James Stone!  Jaleta Clegg! Steven Peck! and possibility of a couple surprises on the side.

Don’t miss it.