Workshop: Scripture and Romance Literature in 19th Century United States
June 12, 2019
Several scholars of literary and religious texts met at the University of Virginia in mid-June to discuss the co-constitution of literature and scripture in the early nineteenth-century United States. They directed particular attention to how—and to what extent—literature became a substitute for scripture as a form of truth-telling and meaning making in the nineteenth century, as well as how the production of scripture, both within and without Mormonism continued apace.
After two days of informally presenting and dialogically responding to paper drafts, the participants agreed to present final papers at a public conference in spring 2020 and hosted by Johns Hopkins University. Details will be announced as they become available. The participants and their subjects are as follows:
Colin Jager (Rutgers) – “Literature, Scripture and the Ancient Mariner”
Whether one might wish to “save” scripture not simply because losing it would throw our culture and traditions into turmoil, but because one might find in it a way of reading and living that was worth saving in the name of a different future.
Nancy Bentley (University of Pennsylvania), “Modern Scripture and the Trope of the Found Manuscript”
Whether the Book of Mormon broke the rules of what theorist Catherine Gallagher calls the “language game of the novel.”
Elizabeth Fenton (University of Vermont), “Readymade Blank Books and the Fabrication of the Sacred”
Whether the readymade blank book, by virtue of its material existence, lends itself to a feeling or notion of the sacred? And, secondarily, what might we make of the fact that the readymade books used by the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were the products of many hands?
Kathleen Flake (University of Virginia), “The Literary and Ritual Dimensions of Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham”
Whether, unlike romantic literary scripturizing, Joseph Smith was able by means of ritual to extend the affective and effective force of his literary works, not only inspiring but binding his readers to the world of the text and reaping the classic benefits of ritual— order, community and transformation.
Jared Hickman (John Hopkins University), “The Romance as a Settler-Colonial Ritual Complex”
Whether early nineteenth-century romance literarture is a ritual complex through which settler colonists, whether in twelfth-century England or nineteenth-century New England, conjure themselves as the current locus of the translatio imperii et studii
Jennifer Graber (University of Texas at Austin), “The Problem with Prophets.”
Whether, because literature is a specialized area of secular discourse with the role of containing the now-ineligible aspects of primitive religion, modern divisions between true and false religion cannot be understood without reference to literary and literary-critical texts.
David Holland (Harvard Divinity School), “The Novel and a Cloud of Witnesses: The Scarlet Letter as a mid-Century Case”
Whether important nineteenth-century literary did not only lay claim to the status of revealed texts, but also adjudicated pressing arguments about how God speaks to humanity.
Emily Ogden (University of Virginia), “The Asylum Thesis of Literature”
Whether literature is a specialized area of secular discourse with the role of containing the now-ineligible aspects of primitive religion. Thus modern divisions between true and false religion cannot be understood without reference to literary and literary-critical texts.
Seth Perry (Princeton), “Lorenzo Dow and Self-Narration as Scripturalization”
The significance of Lorenzo Dow’s performance of scripture and whether for nineteenth-century evangelicals, too, religious experience exists as an act of imagination built from acts of rhetorical performance.
Grant Shreve (Independent Scholar, John Hopkins) – “The Book of Mormon as Bad Literature”
In what sense may the Book of Mormon be denominated a novel or, in other words, What is literature when truth is the sole barometer?
Vincent Wimbush (Institute for Signifying Scripture) – “Backgrounded by Savagery: Black Flesh as Scripture”
Whether bodies as boundaries are themselves the scriptures always to be read (into nationalizations) and, therefore, have profound implications for thinking about thinking and ramifications for the ongoing structuring of political and social relations.