(Cross-posted at By Common Consent.)
Did you hear? Mormon studies is so hot right now. This semester witnessed the start of the Richard Lyman Bushman Chair in Mormon Studies at the University of Virginia (held by Kathleen Flake), next month will see the innaugural issue of the newly re-launched Mormon Studies Review (be very, very excited), and several new and exciting books are about to hit the shelves. And all this on top of the other Mormon studies programs that have been launched and the flood of excellent books that have been published in the last few years.
And now, there is a new book series at an unexpected university press. The following is the official overview, followed by a few comments of my own.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University Press Series in Mormon Studies
The Fairleigh Dickinson University Press Mormon Studies Series welcomes academic works from established and emerging scholars that explore Mormonism in a thoroughly contextualized manner. Mormon Studies is a burgeoning field of scholarly inquiry that has been buttressed by the establishment of academic journals, professional societies, and university programs, as well as an ever growing number of books published by university presses. It intersects with and is enriched by many disciplines including history, family history, religious studies, American studies, literature, philosophy, ethics, law, political science and sociology.
The objective of this interdisciplinary series is to encourage fresh lines of inquiry and analysis that will shed light not only on established subjects of research such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the Mormon role in the settlement of the American West, but also on a variety of lesser known topics. Some of these might include Mormons and comparative religion; interfaith relations; Mormonism and politics, race, class, gender; the institutional development of the Mormon Church, its history in North America, and its growth on an international scale, including its intersections with global history; LDS theology, liturgy, missiology, and Christology; studies on the Book of Mormon–any aspect–as literature, as sacred scripture, in relation to the Bible, as a way of understanding the cultural role of religious texts in nineteenth-century America, within the context of book history, etc. This series is committed to publishing scholarship that will add depth and breadth to the academic discourse on Mormonism as well as considering how it has interacted with society, culture, folklore, philosophy, and the arts.
Books and monographs are of particular interest. Edited collections with strong introductions and reviews of literature are also invited. We will not consider unrevised dissertations nor will we publish works that embrace a polemical tone. The Mormon Studies Series does not reflect the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Brigham Young University. All submissions will undergo peer review. Proposals and inquiries may be sent to:
Dr. Rachel Cope
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah 84602
Series Editors: Rachel Cope, Andrew Hedges, Andrew Skinner, John Welch
Catherine Brekus (University of Chicago Divinity School), Richard Bushman (Columbia University), David Campbell (University of Notre Dame), James H. Charlesworth (Princeton Theological Seminary), Terryl Givens (University of Richmond), David Holland (Harvard University Divinity School), Kate Holbrook (Church History Library), Laurie Maffly-Kipp (Washington University in St. Louis), Susanna Morrill (Lewis & Clark College), Tom Mould (Elon University), and Stephen Webb (Independent Scholar).
This is indeed exciting news. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press is a growing destination for academic work in recent years (earlier this year they published an edited collection on Benjamin Franklin’s Intellectual World, which included a chapter from yours truly) that has an ambitious agenda and increasingly positive reputation among ivory-tower types.
For academic Mormon studies, the University of Illinois Press was the go-to destination for much of the 1980s and 1990s, and the development of New Mormon history owes much of its success to them for raising the field’s credibility. In the last two decades, Oxford University Press has become a–perhaps the–major player in the field, though solid Mormon studies books have also appeared at Utah UP, North Carolina UP, Harvard UP, Yale UP, Columbia UP, Cambridge UP, Oklahoma UP, and Missouri UP. (Not to mention solid works that continually come from independent presses like Signature and, increasingly, Kofford.) It will be nice to see another face in the game. (Since the four series editors are located at BYU, it may be seen that this is a BYU endevor; but being that the books have to get by the rigors of an imposing advisory board, I think we can expect solid work.)
A few brief thoughts:
- This points to, once again, the profitability of Mormon studies books. As Jana Riess recently argued, publishers–especially university presses–have recognized that they can make money with books on Mormonism, which has led to an increasing demand.
- …but academic publishers still won’t publish anything for money–they wouldn’t carry Twilight, for instance–so it shows there is also a growing respectability for the field.
- That this is coming from a press that has played absolutely zero role in Mormon studies in the past shows that interest has expanded far indeed.
- The interdisciplinary nature of both the series editors (with history, women’s studies, ancient studies, and law represented) as well as the advisory board (with people from history, literature, theology, religious studies, folklore, and sociology) points to the future of the field. Previously, history books would have a chance to be published at academic presses, while other genres were reliant on independent publishers. This shows that there is at least one university press open to these other fields, so standards and expectations can be raised for other disciplines under the eclectic umbrella of Mormon studies.
This last point, I think, is most exciting.
So if you have a manuscript, or know someone who has a manuscript, that is worthy of publication, keep this series in mind.