I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog because I’ve been trying to finish reading my prelims list. In the meantime, though, one of my friends has started a blog on pop culture and women’s history called Lady Elocutionist. Check it out! She has a fantastically deep knowledge of feminist theory and plus, the latest post is on 30 Rock.
In honor of Women’s History Month in March, the Scholaristas are launching a new series, and we would like your help, dear reader. Let us explain.
Zion is an ideal that exists in a variety of religious traditions and that manifests itself culturally and materially. The Mormon incarnation of this concept appeared, among other things, as an anthem calling for women of Zion to band together as sisters to build up the kingdom, to uplift the poor, to pull together with God’s blessing upon their labors.
Building Zion is an ecumenical project, one that reaches across denominational boundaries and disparate experiences. Hopefully Zion will be a place where the voices and religious experiences of women are taken seriously. The feminist movement in the bloggernacle is certainly geared toward this project, but sometimes the conversation can become too much about what goes on within Mormon minds and hearts and walls and not enough about how Mormons are interacting with their brothers and sisters without.
This series will consist of reviews of spiritual or religious autobiographies/memoirs/biographies about women of different faiths. How do these women describe their experiences? What are their narrative priorities? Where do they fit within the history of their own traditions? Do they have a feminist agenda?
We would like to open the series up to you, dear readers. If you are interested in participating, in writing a review for us, please comment below or send an email to email@example.com with the recommended text and we’ll see if we can fit you in.
This symposium, organized by one of my former professors Dr. Kristin Matthews, looks fantastic. In addition to considering the ethical and aesthetic implications of war art, the symposium includes an exhibition at the BYU Museum of Art titled At War! The Changing Face of American War Illustration. The exhibit showcases the work of Norman Rockwell, James Montgomery Flagg, Chandler Christie, and Walt Disney, and multiple media representations of war. To read more about the symposium and to register (the deadline is February 21), visit the website.
While Amanda is plowing through her prelims list and Becca is planning an excursion to the other side of the globe, I am engaged in huswifery and searching for jobs. I have time to read whatever I want and pursue a book art project I have cooking in my brain and sizzling in my fingertips (if I can only get up the courage to work on it). Something has given me courage, however, and it is discovering Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes.
The book is a die-cut version of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles. Square holes on each printed page allow the reader to peer into the future of the book (Jonathan Gibbs at Tiny Camels gives a great description of what reading the book is like; it’s exactly how I felt). Completing books has never been my strong suit, and with this book it seems as though completion is a false expectation. It could never be completed. Like a poem or scripture, it is a text that can be revisited time after time to discover new combinations of words, new meanings, new emotional resonances. It is a book whose form is instantaneously capable of expressing its essential multifariousness. It draws attention to the creative, participative act of reading.
Bits of poetry culled from several different pages: “The sad origin of these eccentricities was ready to scatter into fragments. My father would walk along he always featherless empty days and nights.” This exercise in reading reminds me of writing poetry in high school (and now), with efforts at combination and recombination sometimes shameful, sometimes emotionally or verbally superfluous, but precious just the same for all their striving. Another: “All I wanted was to experience full,” and another: “Time filled the room, spread[ing] the silent the bright silence rising.”
“Now they tell us we should not vote because we have not the time, we are so burdened that we should not have any more burdens. Then, if that is so, I think we ought to allow the women to vote instead of the men, since we pay a man anywhere from a third to a half more than we do women it would be better to use up the cheap time of the women instead of the dear time of the men. And talking about time you would think it took about a week to vote” (Anna Howard Shaw, The Fundamental Principle of a Republic).
As I draw to the end of the prelims process (71 books and 24 days left!), I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and have begun to enter the real world again. As a graduate student, this means that I am beginning to attend academic talks again and that I am trying to limit my consumption of cupcakes and candy which have become my food of choice lately.
This week, I went to see Laura Doan give a talk entitled “Normal Soap.” In the talk, she talked about the definitions of queer theory and the binary that they tend to place between normalcy and queerness. David Halperin, for example, famously defined queer in Saint Foucault as being “whatever is opposed to the normal, the legitimate, the dominant.” Doan argued in the talk that this definition reifies the normal, a concept that was not in common currency until the 1930s or the 1950s. She argues that historians should focus on the multiple discourses and structures of meaning that occurring at any one time. Sometimes, she argues, it would be more damaging for someone to be accused of losing their virginity than for someone to be accused of being a sexual pervert.
As I was listening to her speak, I was thinking of the ways in which polygamy underscores the fragility of the binary she was to bust. Few people would classify polygamy as queer, and yet few would classify it as normal. As such, it is difficult to place within the history of sexuality if we accept the binary that some queer historians have constructed. Scholars of Mormonism have much to contribute to these discussions as a result.
Unfortunately, such conversations rarely happen. Historians of American religion are the few non-Mormon historians who deal with Mormonism, and even their references tend to be few. Mormonism is a side note in queer history, in the history of American radicalism, and in the history of sexuality. Mormon historians tend to be allergic to queer theory, skeptical of its claims and reticent to apply it to their own work.
The result are academic conversations that go past each other like ships in the night, never engaging each other, never speaking to each other, and each missing out as a result.