MSH 2009: Religions and the Practice of Criticism
Brigham Young University and Aspen Grove
May 8–9, 2009



Religions and Critical Practices
Prospects for Scholarship in the Humanities
May 8-9, 2009
BYU Provo and Aspen Grove, UT

A conference sponsored by Mormon Scholars in the Humanities

With growing religious fundamentalism worldwide and a national culture in the U.S. that is increasingly religious, scholarship in the Humanities has had to recognize the need for coming to terms with religious culture. It is perhaps fair to say, however, that the academy is currently ill prepared for such a venture. This conference seeks papers that will redress this problem by exploring the relationship between religious culture and humanistic scholarship and the prospects for a new religious criticism. We solicit papers that will address these and other questions: What are the historical roots of the current divide between the secular and the sacred in modernity? What are the differences and/or similarities in the reading of sacred and creative literature today or in the past? How does the study of religion differ or parallel the study of other aspects of culture? What difference, in other words, does belief make to the work of interpretation and criticism, either in terms of the object of study or of the researcher? Can there be such a thing as faithful scholarship? If so, how can it be defined and defended? What criticisms of culture are implicit in the beliefs and practices of religion and what has been the theoretical and historical value of such criticisms? What has been the role of belief in the career of authors, artists, and scholars? What obstacles does religious belief pose to cross-cultural understanding in a secular society? What accounts for religious extremism and intolerance? How can religion avoid the pitfalls of fundamentalism? Do the humanities have a role in ameliorating the extreme tendencies of religious communities? For that matter, what are the dangers of modern secularism? What role can religion play in avoiding them? How might we compare different religious cultures in terms of these concerns? What different strategies and relationships have various religious traditions established with the modern secular world?

While we seek papers that will address these questions within the context of LDS belief and practice, we welcome papers from and about a variety of religious perspectives.

We also announce a scholarly mentoring opportunity at the 2009 conference. To accomplish its mission of supporting LDS scholars, senior MSH members will offer congenial coaching on specific projects. Graduate students and junior faculty members may submit a copy of a work in progress ahead of the conference. MSH will match the project with a senior scholar. The day before the conference (May 7), the two will meet to discuss how to improve the work in progress. MSH will assist with the cost of the extra day’s attendance. Those interested should send a request for assistance and an abstract of the project to George Handley by the deadline below.

Please send an abstract of a proposed paper and a brief CV to George Handley ( by January 18, 2009.



PDF program available here: MSH2009Program


Thursday 3:30-5:00 Faculty Workshop with John Caputo 4186 JFSB
Thursday 5:30-7:00 Panel Discussion: “Thriving in Graduate School in the Humanities”
Panelists: Scott Miller, Jill Rudy, Chip Oscarson, and Brian Roberts B104 JFSB

Friday 9:00-10:00 am Registration Aspen Lodge 2nd floor

Friday 10:00 am-12:00 Religious Criticism in Theory I Aspen Room, Aspen Grove
Moderator: George Handley
1. Jonathon Penny “New Heterodoxies for Old: Creed, Culture, and Criticism in the 21st Century”
2. Adam Miller, “Critical Religion”
3. Jim Faulconer, “The Fleshiness of Reason”

Friday 12:00-1:00 pm Lunch Timpanogos Room

Friday 1:15-3:15 pm Religious Criticism in Theory II Aspen Room
Moderator: David Paxman
4. John Armstrong, “Religious Commitment and Social Criticism”
5. Matt Jackson, “What Would Levinas Do?: Toward A Triangulation of Witnessing”
6. Greg Stallings, “Mormonism and the New Fundamentalisms: A Lacanian Perspective”

Friday 3:30-5:30 pm Religious Criticism in Practice I Aspen Room
Moderator: Kristina Gibby
7. Joseph M. Spencer: “Alfred Hitchcock in the Legacy Theater: Mormonism, Film, and ‘Religious’ Criticism”
8. Candice Wendt “King Lear and Marion’s ‘Logic of Evil’”
9. Doug Christensen, “This I Believe: Secular Talk and the Ontology of the Personal Essay”

Friday 3:30-5:30 pm Criticism and Mormon Scripture Pine Room
Moderator: Catherine Guyon
10. Sam Brown: “Seerhood, Pure Language, and the Silence of the Grave”
11. Kevin Christensen, “Proving Contraries or Spiritual Masochism?: Differences and Consequences in Book of Mormon Scholarship”
12. Alan Goff, “How Then Should We Read? The Vexing Choice between Historical and Literary Readings of Scripture”

Friday 5:45-6:45 pm Dinner Timpanogos Room

Friday 8:00-9:30 pm Plenary Lecture B092 JFSB, BYU*
John D. Caputo, Syracuse University, “On Making a Covenant with the Impossible: A Postmodern Approach to Religion and Its Place in the University” *Note location on BYU campus

Saturday 8:30-9:30 Breakfast and MSH Business Meeting Timpanogos Room

Saturday 10:00-12:00 Religion and Science: Defining the Secular Aspen Room
Moderator: Doug Christensen
13. Dale Pratt, “Fostering Wonder in an LDS Context: The Case for Science and Literature”
14. David Collingridge “From the Inspired Scientific Revolution, to the Spiritually Unenlightened Enlightenment, to Atheistic Secular Humanism in Science: Going from Good, to Bad, to Worse.”
15. Bryan Wallis, “Flexibility in the Ecology of Ideas, an LDS Perspective on Creation”
16. George Handley, “Literature and Global Climate Change: Making Room for Religious Criticism”

Saturday 12:00 to 1 pm Lunch Timpanogos Room

Saturday 1:15-3:15 Implications of Mormon Doctrine for Criticism I Aspen Room
Moderator: John Armstrong
17. David Gore, “Joseph Smith’s Letter from Liberty Jail as an Epistolary Rhetoric”
18. Shawn Tucker, “Home and Adventure: Mormon Contributions to the Virtues and Vices Tradition”
19. Robert B. Couch and Dennis C. Wendt, “Mormon Paradox in a Secular Age”

Saturday 1:15-3:15 Faith, Women, and Technology Pine Room
Moderator: Keith Lawrence
20. Julie Frederick
21. Jenny Webb
22. Becky Johnston

Saturday 3:30-5:30 Implications of Mormon Doctrine for Criticism II Aspen Room
Moderator: Joseph M. Spencer
23. Wade Hollingshaus, “Agamben’s ‘Play as Profanation’ and the Practice of (LDS) Religion”
24. Ron Bartholomew, “Clash or Conformity with Social Convention: Missiology of the Bedfordshire Conference”
25. Jenn Lee Smith, “Cultural Evolution in Religion: Race and Marriage Discourses in the LDS Church”

Saturday 3:30-5:30 Religious Criticism in Practice II Pine Room
Moderator: Bryan Wallis
26. Christopher Lund “Christology in the Poetry of Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935)”
27. Bruce Jorgensen, “How Is Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea Religious?”
28. Carl Sederholm, “Out of His Usual Way: Narrating Suicide in Jonathan Edwards’s Faithful Narrative”
29. Keith Lawrence, “In Criticism but Not of It?: Placing the Believing Critic”



Article “A Mormon Theology Manifesto” at Deseret News

Article “Dynamite, Dutcher, Hitchcock, and the Failure of LDS Movies” at Deseret News

Article “Good Flexibility, Structure in Mormonism” at Deseret News

Article “Humanities Conference Friday and Saturday” at Deseret News

Article “Science Should Include God, Scholar Says” at Deseret News

Post at Mormon Chronicles

Post at Religion & Science Blog