Introducing Artistic Preaching

APFor a while I’ve been wanting to resume regular posing on my , Mormon literature blog, The Low-Tech Worldbut I’ve put it off for a number of reasons–the first of which being that I find the blogger platform somewhat clunky and inconvenient compared to other platforms, like Tumblr and WordPress.

I’ve also been wanting to start more or less from scratch with a new Mormon literature blog with a name that makes reference to Mormon literary traditions. When I started The Low-Tech World, after all, it was a personal blog where I posted about whatever was on my mind. After it gained a readership among Mormon lit enthusiasts, however, I turned it into a forum specifically devoted to Mormon literature and culture–but retained the old name, which had absolutely nothing to do with Mormonism or literature.

In starting up Artistic Preaching, I’ve decided not to begin entirely from scratch. I’ve imported all of my Mormon literature posts (and comments) from the old blog, and I plan to keep posting the kinds of things I posted back when I was a more regular blogger. I’ve rechristened the blog, though, because I wanted a title that not only drew upon the history and tradition of Mormon literature, but also reflected how I’ve come to understand the cultural work of literature written by, for, and especially about the Mormon people. Those who already know my work know that I read Mormon literature as “post-utopian” expressions that work out Mormonism’s conflicting desire to be both a utopian community, separate from the rest of the world, and an assimilated member of “mainstream” society–wherever that society may be. As such, it speaks with a layered voice that promotes a utopian agenda through literary forms it borrows and adapts from the cultures around it. In short, it strives for what Nephi Anderson called “artistic preaching”–an approach to literature that uses familiar genres and forms to “[depict] high ideals and [give] to us representations of men and women as they should and can be” in order to  “[exert] an influence for good that is not easily computed” (“Purpose in Fiction,” Improvement Era Feb. 1898).

Of course, when it comes to preaching, Mormon writers don’t always take the same side or the same approach when delivering messages and proposing better ways to be a Mormon people. Lately, in fact, many Mormon writers have essentially handed the responsibility of preaching over to the readers, asking them to draw their own conclusions.  Still, if anything ties the whole of Mormon literature together for me, in a nice messy package, it is a commitment to–an investment in–the past, present, and future of the Mormon people.

What I mean by “investment” and “commitment” and even “artistic preaching,” of course, are going to have to be worked out and probably revised as I continue the blog. My understanding of Mormon literature certainly evolved as I wrote The Low-Tech World, and I imagine it will continue to do so here.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.

 

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