Jared Hickman, The Johns Hopkins University
Elizabeth Fenton, The University of Vermont
Over twenty years ago, Nathan Hatch highlighted a gap in the study of American religion, noting that, “for all the attention given to the study of Mormonism, surprisingly little has been devoted to The Book of Mormon itself.” Though scholars of US religion and culture have produced a wide range of work on Mormonism, its history, and its peoples in the past two decades, Hatch’s assertion remains largely true. In the field of US literary studies particularly, The Book of Mormon stands as a telling absence, perhaps because questions about what it is and where it came from have overshadowed discussions of how it works and what it does. This essay collection begins with the premise that, whatever else it may be, The Book of Mormon is a significant, world-altering literary text that should be studied as such.
For this proposed collection, we are seeking essays that engage with The Book of Mormon as a work of literature and situate it within the context of Americanist literary studies. Although the book’s theology is in many respects inseparable from questions of its historicity, we seek essays that resist the urge to simply historicize the book’s importance away or address its claims to sacred status. We are, in other words, less interested in how the book came into being than in how it operates both in itself and in conjunction with other US cultural productions.
We are interested in essays addressing a range of topics from a variety of critical vantage points. Essays appropriate for this collection might consider The Book of Mormon’s construction of American indigeneity, its presentations of gender and sexuality, or its complex formulations of race relations. Work on the text’s structure, narrative forms, and intertextual moments is also welcome. Though we are not seeking pieces centered on questions of The Book of Mormon’s particular composition history, we are interested in essays that analyze its engagements with questions of history and historicity, its imaginings of both ancient Israel and early America, and its place within antebellum religious cultures.
Please submit essay proposals of not more than 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com by 30 September 2013. Oxford University Press has expressed interest in this collection, and so we will be submitting the proposal to that press by the end of 2013. Complete drafts of accepted essays will be due by 30 June 2014. Finished essays should be 7,000-9,000 words in length.