There’s So Much to Do, Outside the Ivory Tower!

I am an independent scholar. Not independently wealthy unfortunately – I have to earn my bread – but I am one of the growing number of people with PhDs who, for a wide variety of reasons, are not pursuing a traditional career track of teaching and scholarship, but rather have day jobs that variously engage our talents – academic and otherwise – while we continue to engage in the life of the mind on our own terms.   I’ve only been on this path for a little over two years, since … [Read more...]

A Plea for Identity on the Internet

I recently watched a preview for The Fifth Estate, the new film about WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.  At one point in the trailer, which seems to me to lean toward an image of a crusader for democracy and free speech, Benedict Cumberbatch earnestly portrays Assange as telling a hushed crowd, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. But if you give him a mask, he WILL tell you the truth.” I don’t buy it. Much as I have studied, discussed, and analyzed the … [Read more...]

Old Stories and Familiar Tropes: Anti-Catholicism and the Female Body in Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’

In her post “Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’: An Eternal Return” earlier this week, my colleague Susanna Morrill observed that Dan Brown has a knack for telling familiar stories in a language of standard tropes. As Susanna showed, Brown’s work taps into a variety of American anxieties, and it reflects a number of movements in American thought. Susanna’s observations approached Brown with a wide-angle lens, and she ably illuminated the ways in which Brown’s latest whodunit novel featuring … [Read more...]

“Matt and Me (But Mostly Me)”*: A Conversation about _The Book of Mormon_ on Broadway

The Book of Mormon, the musical comedy co-written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, went into previews on Broadway the week I turned in my dissertation on images of the Latter-day Saints in American culture from 1890 to the present. Sadly, this meant that while I quoted much of Parker and Stone’s work in my dissertation (South Park, Cannibal! The Musical, Orgazmo), I did NOT include a discussion of their Tony-winning musical in my work. Last week, I finally got to see the … [Read more...]

*Angels in America* at 20: Revisiting Tony Kushner’s Millennium — and His Mormons — in the 21st Century

2013 is the 20th anniversary of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize for his groundbreaking play Angels in America, which first appeared on Broadway in two-parts in 1993. Kushner's sweeping epic critiqued conservative politics in Reagan-era America and confronted the devastating realities of HIV-AIDS for the gay community. Along the way, Angels engaged with a variety of American identities, cultures, and issues, many of which are grounded in religion and spirituality. In addition to the obvious … [Read more...]

Finding a Bit of Comfort in the Image of Mormonism That Americans Most Respect

About a week ago, I decided to write my next post on a recurrent popular representation of the Mormons that we didn’t see much of during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign: the image of Mormon violence. I was going to talk about why I think this image didn’t surface during the recent Mormon moment, and whether or not I think it has a future now that the moment is over. But since last Friday, we have all watched in horror as unspeakable violence and its aftereffects have unfolded in … [Read more...]

What Do Mormons and Southerners Have in Common?

The news has been full, this election cycle, of Mitt Romney’s evangelical problem. The conservative evangelical Protestants who form the core of the Republican Party continue to be wary of Romney’s Mormon faith, and that wariness could translate to a lack of enthusiasm that drives down Republican voter turnout on election day—which could sink Romney’s bid for the presidency.  This evangelical problem is particularly of note in swing states in the South, a red state region that has long … [Read more...]


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