A few weeks ago, I received the okay to teach a ten week 200-level lit class called “American Religious Landscapes.” I’ll be teaching it during the Spring 2012 quarter. Since the end of the world isn’t scheduled until December of 2012, the class should go off as planned.
Obviously, I’m most looking forward to the week I’ll be teaching Mormon short stories. I still intend to make Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction one of the required texts, although I might bring in .pdfs of stories published and archived by Dialogue as well. Of the thirty-some stories in the anthology, I plan on using nine. I haven’t selected which ones to use yet. If you have any suggestions, let me know.
I definitely plan on using Levi Peterson’s “Brothers,” Douglas Thayers “Wolves,” and Angela Hallstrom’s “Thanksgiving.” I also think it would be important to bring in Orson Scott Card and Brady Udall since both of them publish nationally, but I want to go through the book again with the class in mind. I think I need to find stories that reflect the way Mormonism plays out across landscapes and in communities, but not in a way that is only recognizable to people very aware of the religion and its culture. In other words, I want highly accessible stories that show Mormonism’s basic imprint on the land and its people.
Aside from Dispensation, I also plan on using C. Michael Curtis’s fiction anthology God: Stories, which has many stories depicting Protestantism and Judaism. I also intend to give the class some ideas to talk about with Timothy Beal’s non-fiction Religion in America: A Very Short Introduction (which, sadly, has very little to say about Mormonism).
Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, Toni Morrison’s Paradise, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, and maybe one other novel or short story collection might also become required reading for the class, but I haven’t made any sort of final selection. Right now I’m also in the market for a good fiction written by an American Muslim that depicts Islam in America. So far I haven’t come up with much. If you have any recommendations, let me know.
If you’d like to know how the class develops, I’ll post occasional updates. It should be an interesting experience.