Among the books in my forthcoming list for next year, there are new and expanded editions of two Mormon history classics: Terryl Givens’s Viper on the Hearth (available for preorder here) and Phil Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible (available in spring). This is great news. Both volumes were early experiments by Oxford University Press with Mormon history, and their success led the press to become the flagship academic publisher in the field. Both also made big dents in the Mormon historical community: Barlow’s nuanced the traditional understanding of how Mormons interacted with the Bible (I rely on his “selective literalism” model in much of his own work), and Givens, among other things, showed how American culture conceptualized Mormons as a distinct ethnic group as a way to avoid dealing with their theology. And finally, both works served as frontrunners and models to the current generation in Mormon studies: using Mormon examples to engage broader tensions and answer larger questions. It will be great to see both books in new, updated, and paperback editions–especially since Viper on the Hearth will finally be affordable! (I still remember shelling out $65 for a copy while an undergrad…)
Publishing new editions of older books serves several functions. First, they remind the field of their importance and introduce a new generation of scholars to essential works. Second, they make the books more accessible (Thomas Alexander’s new edition of Mormonism in Transition, though without much updating, is helpful in making the book more available, for example). Third, the books are re-introduced into major debates within the field (Viper, for instance, can be put in dialogue with the many recent books on anti-Mormonism). And finally, new editions allow the authors to revisit, revise, and expand in ways to reflect recent developments, findings, and ideas. Both of these new books will feature extended commentary that responds to scholarship since their original release, as well as bringing their analysis up to the present. I haven’t read Barlow’s new edition yet, but Givens’s final chapter has an especially provocative section on Mormonism in the media since 1990, including during the Romney campaign, and I was impressed with his sophisticated analysis. Be excited.
But this brings up a fun question: what other books in Mormon history need a new edition? What classics need to be re-introduced, revised, and expanded? These requests don’t have to be realistic–look at it more as a way to think of how classic books and the field have changed over the years. A couple that come to mind:
- John Brooke’s Refiner’s Fire (suggested by Christopher on the backchannel). While panned at its release, recent analysis indicates we may have overlooked some of its benefits. There are certainly some major methodological flaws that should be revised, but there are also some gems that should be expanded.
- Marvin Hill, Quest for Refuge. I recently read through this book for the second time, and I was struck with two things: its dated framing of American pluralism on the one hand, and its impressive research and provocative thesis on the other.
What books do you think, in a perfect world, should come out in new, expanded, and revised editions?