New Anthology of Essays on Mormon Literature



Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of Eugene England and Lavina Fielding Anderson’sTending the Garden: Essays on Mormon Literature. As the first anthology of Mormon literary criticism, it was an important step forward in the development of Mormon literary studies and served a generation of scholars well.

Unfortunately, while the essays in Tending the Garden remain useful, the volume itself has become outdated. Over the last two decades, Mormon literature and literary studies have evolved in surprising ways, thanks in part to the ongoing efforts of the Association for Mormon Letters and the rise of the internet. Indeed, as foretold by Lavina Fielding Anderson in her preface to Tending the Garden, the internet has allowed discussions of Mormon literature to extend beyond the borders of the Wasatch Front, introducing fresh insights and enabling a more global understanding of Mormon literature. Moreover, it has allowed scholars, authors, and enthusiasts of Mormon literature from around the world to feel a sense of community and engage actively in the ongoing development of Mormon literature and Mormon literary studies.

In light of recent anthologies of short Mormon fiction, Mormon poetry, and Mormon drama, Scott Hales is beginning a new anthology of Mormon literary theory and criticism. The first part of the anthology will collect essays from the last twenty years about theoretical and practical approaches to writing and analyzing Mormon literature, while the second part will collect essays from the same time period about specific Mormon texts or literary trends.

To find these essays, he will be going through back issues of the AML Annual, Irreantum, DialogueSunstone, and other periodicals that have published on Mormon literature. Significant posts advancing our understanding of the field will likewise be drawn from blogs like A Motley Vision and Dawning of a Brighter Day. However, we are also extending a call for papers to gather any previously published or unpublished material that may be out there.

Essay submissions should address Mormon literature and be no longer than 10,000 words. The collection seeks to examine Mormon literature broadly, so essays about literary works by or about Mormons will be considered, even if the literary works themselves have no overt Mormon content. For a submission to receive full consideration, however, it should approach these works as Mormon literature or expressions of Mormon thought.

Send inquiries and submissions to The deadline is December 1, 2015.


An open conversation regarding suggestions for previously published work (and side issues of the project that you would like Scott Hales to consider) is being held at A Motley Vision.

“Critical Analysis of Dorian: Nephi Anderson’s Dorian and the Project of Twentieth-Century Mormonism” by Scott Hales


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.


At the time of his 6 January 1923 death, Nephi Anderson was the premier man of letters in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His friend, Church President Heber J. Grant, credited his writing for making “a financial success” of one of the Church’s official magazines, the Improvement Era, which had published Anderson’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for more than twenty years. Indeed, three months before his death, Anderson received an admiring letter from Grant telling him “that there are few, if any, of the writers to the Improvement Era that I feel more grateful to than your dear self for the many contributions which you have made to our splendid little magazine” (Grant). This praise was echoed in Anderson’s two-page obituary in the Improvement Era which called him “a gifted writer of fiction” who “always provided clean stories permeated by the spirit of the gospel” (“Nephi Anderson” 373 – 375). Another obituary, published on the front page of the Box Elder News, claimed that Anderson’s novel Added Upon had been “read by almost every person in the state” of Utah (“Called by Death” 1)….

Cracroft’s positive appraisal of Dorian is a welcome reprieve from the criticisms of Anderson’s detractors, yet his lamentation for what might have been distracts in some ways from what the novel was and continues to be for Latter-day Saints and their fiction. Reading it today, nearly one hundred years later, it is easy to see that Dorian was not only a generally successful aesthetic production and a milestone in Mormon literary realism, but also a statement of identity for Mormons in the early twentieth century, particularly young Mormons whose task it was to take the Church into the future. As one reviewer pointed out in the January 1922 issue of the Improvement Era, the novel provided “boys and girls” with “a class of reading which [aimed] to teach the way of righteousness in attractive story form” (“Editor’s Table” 361). Its Horatian mixture of entertainment and instruction, in other words, could serve as a vehicle for shaping Mormon character, clarifying cultural boundaries, and teaching correct gospel principles. To a Mormon community still in the process of steadying itself from the institutional trauma of the Woodruff Manifesto, the 1890 edict that signaled the beginning of the end of the group-defining practice of Mormon polygamy, Dorian served as a kind of guidebook for performing twentieth-century Mormon identity.

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!

AML Conference


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:



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.


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.


Awards luncheon.


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!)


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