Mason Allred


Mason Allred earned a BA in history from Brigham Young University–Hawaii and an MA and PhD in German studies from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a cultural historian of media, historiography, and historical experience. As a Fulbright Scholar, he spent a year in the archives of Germany for his dissertation on the relationship between cinema and modern historicity. He was a contributor to the documentary sourcebook, The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory 1907-1933 (UC Press, 2015). His interdisciplinary work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Jewish Studies Quarterly, The Journal of Popular Culture, and Transit, as well as in edited scholarly volumes. He recently accepted a position as historian at the Joseph Smith Papers.

He is the author of  “Integrating the “Best Books”: Interwar Intellectualism And Extratextuality in Nephi Anderson’s DORIAN” included in our Peculiar Edition of Dorian.

“Integrating the “Best Books”: Interwar Intellectualism and Extratextuality in Nephi Anderson’s Dorian” by Mason Allred


In the lead-up to the March 31 release of our Peculiar Edition of Nephi Anderson’s novel Dorian we will be running a series of posts featuring the first paragraph (and one other paragraph of the editor’s whim) from the essays included in that volume. Come back for more every Tuesday and Thursday.


The twentieth century began with Mormonism being forced into the limelight. With the problematic appointment of Reed Smoot as the first Mormon senator, the stage was set for a reexamination of “this most strange and peculiar faith” (qtd. in Flake 100). How, if at all, did Mormons fit into the nation and world at large? As if striking the tuning fork of assimilation and listening for resonance in Mormon thought, a generation of academically trained leaders of the Church also set their minds to work out the place of Mormon thought within a wider intellectual framework. The first few decades of the twentieth century bear this significant trend of intellectually and culturally locating Mormonism within a broader context. Major figures forming a constellation around this drive to integrate, or even circumscribe, Mormonism include John A. Widtsoe, James E. Talmage, and B.H. Roberts, among others. Their influential work engendered a new rationality in Mormon intellectual history, which can be characterized by an increased awareness of secular knowledge and a sustained effort to reconcile such with Mormon faith-based knowledge….

This modern notion of navigating the world outside oneself is evidenced in Dorian’s consumer trips to the city. It is perhaps appropriate that the novel opens with Dorian strolling the city streets, as a flaneur of sorts. Dorian is flaneur-like in his consumption of books and candy and in his detached stance to the city and its pleasures. However, unlike the flaneur roaming the city in Baudelaire, Benjamin, or Poe (Benjamin 79), Dorian’s experience with the material reality of modernity often underscores his ignorance and asserts his solitude. Yet, despite his lack of knowledge about automobiles and moving picture shows, Dorian is connected to a broader world through the “imagined communities” of established readership (Anderson, B. 25). Selectively partaking of the city, yet remaining distinctly separate is the modus operandi of Dorian and Dorian. They both pick and choose of the best texts to “use” in their construction of self.

News on the Dorian project


Peculiar Pages’ edition of Nephi Anderson’s Dorian will be published by the end of 2013.

That’s right: this very year.

To celebrate, please enjoy this list of essays contributed by scholars which will be included in our Peculiar Edition of this classic work:

Mason Allred—Integrating the “Best Books”: Interwar Intellectualism and Extratextuality in Nephi Anderson’s Dorian

Jacob Bender—“This Is Not a Photograph”: Nephi Anderson’s Dorian as a sort of LDS Sons and Lovers; or A Portrait of the Mormon Solipsist as a Young Man

Scott Hales—Nephi Anderson’s Dorian and the Project of Twentieth-Century Mormonism

Blair Dee Hodges—“Harmonizing Mormonism and Science ‘in the valley of sunshine and shadow’”

Sarah Reed—“Why are there classes among members of our Church?”: Anderson’s Economics of Mormonism in Transition

A. Arwen Taylor—The Dead Virgin and the Accidental Whore

Not to mention notes on the text and two essays from Anderson himself!

This is going to be a terrific book. Whether you already know and love Dorian or it’s something you’re about to experience for the first time, this edition has been worth the wait.

And just in time for a new year of reading!