BYU HUMANITIES COLLEGE ALUMNI MAGAZINE SPRING 2011
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In Praise of Forgetfulness How much of what any of us, as students, wrote on our final exams have we remembered a year later? Five years later? Research on the subject tells us that regardless of major or study habits, we don’t remember much of the detail on which our final grades were based. Given that, perhaps there is a case to be Dean John R. Rosenberg made for the art of forgetting. Remembering has undisputed value. Indeed, we might say that a primary objective of a humanistic education is to become a reliable carrier of the collective remembrances we call culture. However, oft-maligned forgetfulness has its own role to play. Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges taught us the virtue of forgetfulness through his memorable story, “Funes the Memorious,” about a young man, Ireneo Funes, who, after suffering a catastrophic fall that left him paralyzed, forgets how to forget. Funes “could reconstruct all his dreams, all his half-dreams,” Borges tells us. “Two or three times he had reconstructed a whole day . . . but each reconstruction had required a whole day.” “Funes remembered not only every leaf of every tree of every wood, but also every one of the times he had perceived or imagined it. He decided to reduce each of his past days to some seventy thousand memories. . . . With no effort he had learned English, French, Portuguese and Latin. . . .” But this prodigious memory proved to be limiting: “It was difficult for him to comprehend that the generic symbol dog embraces so many unlike individuals of diverse size and form; it bothered him that the dog at three fourteen (seen from the side) should have the same name as the dog at three fifteen (seen from the front).” Indeed, one of the points of the story is that thinking, reasoning, making critical decisions—engaging in 2 HUMANITIES at BYU
the human conversation—demands that we forget: “I suspect,” concludes Borges, “that [Funes] was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget differences, generalize, make abstractions. In the teeming world of Funes, there were only details” —those same details that might help us succeed during finals week but that inevitably fade. What serves us best from our Humanities education is not the details themselves but the skills required to manage these details and new ones we acquire—skills that require us to sort and rank and relate information, to assign to it syntax and salience and virtue. One of my mentors was fond of reminding his students that “information becomes knowledge only when you create your own system out of it.” Creating that personal system of knowledge requires forgetting some things in order to endow others with meaning. Neil Postman made a similar point in The End of Education, where he reminded us that among possible metaphors for learning—the funnel, the sponge, the strainer, and the sieve—the ancient Mishnah preferred the sieve: “the sponge . . . absorbs all; the funnel receives at one end and spills out at the other; the strainer lets the wine drain through it and retrains the dregs; but the sieve . . . lets out the flour dust and retains the fine flour” (175). The sieve is a metaphor for strategic forgetfulness. Forgetting is not just a learning strategy, however; it is an ethical choice. We can choose to forget the flaws we see in the character of others; we can choose to forget the offenses we have suffered; we can allow the dust of our own ill-considered acts to slip through the sieve of memory (see Alma 36:19). Choosing to forget, we begin to understand that grace, the instrument and the effect of atonement, is in its essence godly forgetfulness. My sister recently gave my elderly father an anthology of poetry to help him remember phrases and images he had learned from his youth but which now, like much of his past, are slipping from him. In the pages of the book my father scribbled some personal notations like “much loved,” “very familiar,” or “I remember this one.” At the end of one poem he wrote, “well forgotten.” I’m
in this issue
Africa’s Ambiguous Adventure Students attend a colloquium celebrating guest speaker Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s novel L’Aventure ambiguë, which explores finding faith in an increasingly secularized world.
10 Poetics of the Restoration George B. Hadley explains why the Restoration of the gospel compels us to study and explore other cultures.
departments 2 From the Dean 4 Of Note 5 Moving On
17 Books that Made a Difference 18 Why I Choose to Give 18 How I Have Been Blessed 19 Alumni News
not sure what he meant by that enigmatic phrase, maybe only that he recognized a long forgotten but once familiar poem. Or perhaps “well forgotten” was an aesthetic judgment—that this poem was one unworthy of re-
Front cover: Senegalese author Cheikh Hamidou Kane at BYU (see story on pages 8–9); photo used by permission of LarkPrints Photography Back cover: View from JFSB east deck
membrance. Whatever he intended, the unusual phrase “well forgotten” impressed me as a label for the idea that forgetting can be a strategy for learning even as it is an ethical choice. ✦
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Moving on The College says farewell to several faculty members this year. Their devoted service to thousands of students will not be forgotten. To wish them well, please email Karmen Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contact information.
✦ David Paxman (English Department) grew up in Provo, then grew up some more on a mission to Argentina, then again in graduate school at the University of Chicago, 1971–1976, again in his first teaching job at BYUHawaii, 1976–1988—where he discovered that if he was teaching and no one was learning, he wasn’t exactly succeeding—then once again as a member of the English Department at BYU, 1988–2010. At BYU he taught British literature, specializing in the Restoration and the eighteenth century (1660–1780). BYU’s teaching and scholarship expectations gave him needed balance: when his classes were going poorly, he could thrust himself into researching and writing an article, and when an article was going poorly, he could remind himself that, after all, his students mattered more than anything else. He chaired department committees, wrote several accreditation self-studies, took a short turn as graduate coordinator, and served as associate dean for a spell. His plans include research and writing, family time and family history, tennis, travel, humanitarian work, another mission (he and his wife Kathryn served in Argentina, 2006–2007), and further steps in what he sees as an endless process of coming of age. ✦ Douglas Thayer (English Department) started teaching in 1957, and in his fifty-four years he has taught under thirteen of the seventeen chairs of English. (The first three chairs served for a total of sevnty-two years!) Doug got a BA at BYU, an MA 4 HUMANITIES at BYU
at Stanford, and an MFA in fiction writing at the University of Iowa. His specialty was teaching fiction writing, but his first love was freshman English, which he taught virtually every year. Doug’s published work includes three novels, two collections of short stories, a memoir, and short stories in various quarterlies. He has a new young adult novel finished and is working on the last story in a new collection he hopes will be out soon. Most of his fiction concerns faithful Mormons trying to live their somewhat conflicted lives. Doug is considered one of the pioneers of modern Mormon fiction, and his work has won various awards. Doug has served as director of composition, associate department chair, and associate dean. Doug is married to author-attorney-editor Donlu DeWitt. They have six children and a growing number of grandchildren. After retirement, Doug plans to spend time in the Utah west desert mountains and elsewhere, searching for gold nuggets with his metal detector; looking for bear, cougar, elk, wildcats, and wolves with his powerful new binoculars (bought with the university retirement gift); fly-fishing and ice-fishing a great deal; writing novels and stories from a Mormon octogenarian’s point of view; reading; and watching only the best movies. By assignment he is presently writing a history of the English Department to be put on the department website.
✦ Bob Russell (Asian & Near Eastern Languages) received a BA in anthropology from the University of Utah and a PhD in linguistics from Harvard University, with concentrations in Arabic and Japanese. Between degrees, he served as a pilot in the Air Force during the Vietnam era. He began his professorial career at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, where he taught Japanese and linguistics. In 1982, he joined the faculty at BYU, where he has taught a variety of courses in Japanese and linguistics. His research interests include Japanese second language acquisition
and attrition and computer-assisted language learning materials design and development. He has been principal investigator of large external grants. His service to the profession includes two terms on the board of directors of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, plus service as language and linguistics editor of the Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese. His service at BYU includes two terms as department chair, which only reinforced his belief that he has been privileged to serve with, and learn from, some of the most extraordinarily gifted faculty—men and women of both faith and learning—that he has ever known. For that reason, the mere contemplation of retirement has turned out to be more difficult than expected, but Bob has come to believe that retierment, like graduation, is a commencement, bringing opportunities for renewal and the exploration of new horizons while, at the same time, giving fresh meaning to the notions of lifelong learning and service. He expresses gratitude to his wife, Candy, and their five children, to his colleagues and students at BYU, and to his Father in Heaven, for the blessing he has had of serving at BYU.
✦ Wilfried Decoo (French and Italian Department) came to BYU after a twenty-fiveyear career at the graduate school of the University of Antwerp and long involvement in international research networks. In 1999, at age fifty-three, he started at BYU, where his main assignment was to teach undergraduate writing. Wilfried has enjoyed working with LDS students with whom he could share his testimony of the gospel and help them discover how language can carry spirituality. His favorite was a course where, among other things, students studied subsequent editions of the French Book of Mormon and analyzed why changes were made and to what extent these changes could be justified on the basis of possible connotations in the English original. From that multilingual perspective, there is much
to discover in the scriptures! Meanwhile, Wilfried also continued his research and publishing in foreign language pedagogy, though he did not teach at BYU in this area of his specialization. He also kept working on historical and sociological aspects of the Church in Europe, a passion he intends to keep alive during retirement years.
✦ Russell M. Cluff (Spanish and Portuguese Department) received his BA and MA from BYU and his PhD from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He taught four years at the University of MinnesotaMorris and two years at the University of Notre Dame. He came to BYU in 1983 and, in the middle of his career, took a twoyear leave to teach and to chair the Department of Modern Languages at Stephen F. Austin University. His area of interest has always been Latin American literature, with a special interest in Mexican prose. His scholarship has centered mainly on the Mexican short story. However, he always enjoyed teaching all genres of Latin American literature to his many incredibly diverse and talented students, whom he recognized as the first reason for his having chosen this profession. He enjoyed being involved with the creation of Study Abroad programs in the Dominican Republic and in Mérida, Yucatán. He also enjoyed directing the Puebla, Mexico program. In recent years, he became active in the musicalization of Spanish and English poetry, resulting in a CD of fourteen songs based on the sonnets of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. He will miss his association with outstanding colleagues and students.
✦ Charles “Chuck” Bush, Senior Research Fellow in the Humanities Technology and Research Support Center, passed away on April 13, 2011, from complications of strokes. Chuck’s humanities education and his fluency or familiarity with several languages made him highly valued in his nearly forty years at BYU, in aiding faculty members with computer research and technical help. In recent years, he also was the coordinator of the minor in Computing in the Humanities. A colleague said, “Chuck helped to make the HTRSC a strong place for faculty assistance; he is very much missed.”
o� Note ✦ In February, BYU’s Department of Linguistics and English Language hosted, for the first time, a local round of the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO). This was part of a worldwide yearly competition that tests high school students from the United States and throughout the world on their ability to solve linguistic analysis problems. The three-hour test was administered locally to a group of 18 high school students from the Salt Lake, Lehi, and Provo areas. Though no students from the BYU region placed high enough among the over 1,200 US participants to advance to the national and international competitions, there was a good first showing from local students, and they were introduced to the field of linguistics and the types of language problems that computational linguists work with on a daily basis. 6 HUMANITIES at BYU
✦ Brian S. Best, Professor Emeritus of English, died on April 21, 2011. After a BA and an MA at BYU, a PhD at Wisconsin, a Danforth Fellowship year in England, and post-graduate work at Harvard, he taught at BYU for over 36 years. A younger colleague describes Brother Best as “one of the kindest and most encouraging mentors anyone could had have.” ✦ J. Keith Slade, Associate Professor Emeritus of French, died on May 17, 2011. After an LDS mission in France, enrollment at BYU “to see if I could find a wife” (which he did), studies and degrees from Arizona, BYU, and Indiana, he taught at BYU from 1963 to 1994. He supervised nine study abroad programs and made a 500-mile walking tour of France. Brother Slade is remembered by colleagues for his “knowing smile and twinkling eyes” and for being “realistically and hopefully optimistic.”
✦ In March, the Department of English sponsored the English Symposium, a showcase for outstanding student work, both graduate and undergraduate. Some 90 students presented scholarly and creative projects, and over 650 people—students, professors, and members of the community—attended. Student leaders from the Graduate Student Association and the English Society organized the event under the direction of faculty advisor Dr. Paul Westover. English faculty member Dr. Nancy Christiansen delivered an inspiring keynote address entitled “On ‘Going Pro,’” aptly capturing the importance of humanities skills for successful careers and lives.
✦ In March, Professor Nicholas Mason of the English Department delivered the Department of Communication’s Ray and Ida Lee Beckham Lecture for 2011. This annual lectureship is the culminating event in the university’s “Communications Week” and aims to showcase new scholarship on the role of mass media in society. Professor Mason was the first faculty member from outside the Department of Communications to receive this honor. Professor Mason’s lecture, entitled “The Rise of Mass-Media Puffery and the ‘Death’ of Literature in Georgian Britain,” explored the mutually constitutive relationship between literature and advertising in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He focused particularly on how the expansion of the British press gave rise to puffery, a new form of literary marketing in which authors and publishers used theoretically objective genres like news stories and reviews to hype their own works.
and not a little surprising, to know that such solitary work is actually resonating beyond my own head.”
✦ BYU sophomore Tessa Lush will spend a full year in Germany, starting in July 2011, the recipient of a work-study fellowship from the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, a program funded by the US Department of State. Lush, a German major, will live with a German host family. The program is unique in that she will do an internship with an international firm, will take classes at a German university, and will study the language intensively. “It’s a big thing, and it’s easy to be scared,” Lush said. “But I’m sure it will be awesome.”
✦ In April, Kimberly Johnson of the English Department learned of her award as a 2011 Fellow from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Hers is one of 180 Fellowships awarded to a diverse group of scholars, artists, and scientists from a group of almost 3,000 applicants. Dr. Johnson specializes in Renaissance literature and creative writing. Her fellowship was awarded on the basis of her “prior achievement and exceptional promise,” according to the Guggenheim Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and the fellowship is intended to support Johnson’s continuing work—specifically to provide support as she completes her third collection of poetry, which is currently in progress. “It’s especially nice to have the Guggenheim Foundation send so much encouragement and in such a public way, because as a poet and scholar, I tend to spend a great deal of my time locked in the hermetic and intense silence of my own mind,” says Johnson. “It’s gratifying, Spring 2011
Africa's Ambiguous Adventure
by Nathan Baier, of the Daily Universe (March 21, 2011), and Chantal Thompson, of the Department of French and Italian, former Coordinator of the BYU African Studies program (photos courtesy of LarkPrints Photography)
colloquium commemorating the 50th Anniversary of one of Africa’s most celebrated works of literature united students and scholars at BYU on March 17–18, 2011. The colloquium, organized by Professor Chantal Thompson of the Department of French and Italian, explored Africa’s Ambiguous Adventure through Senegalese author Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s novel L’Aventure ambiguë (Ambiguous Adventure) with a series of lectures and cultural events. Published in 1961, L’Aventure ambiguë depicts the impact of Western secular culture on a deeply devout youth from Islamic Senegal. Chosen to attend colonial schools to “learn from them the art of conquering without being in the right,” Samba Diallo, the protagonist, is lured by the “light” of reason and science and starts to forget the “shadows” of intangible realities such as faith. Imploring God to “revive him to the secret tenderness,” Samba finally “hears” his father’s counsel: “Your salvation, the presence of God living in you, depends upon yourself.” Exploring the themes of faith vs. materialistic 8 HUMANITIES at BYU
pursuits, of tradition vs. modernity, the novel won the first Grand Prix littéraire d’Afrique noire. In the years following the publication of his semiautobiographical novel, Kane served as a minister in the Senegalese government and as a dignitary in international affairs. Visiting BYU for the third time, the eighty-two-year-old Kane traveled from Dakar to take part in the celebration. In his opening lecture, titled “The Clash of Culture and Faith in Colonial Africa,” Kane explained that L’Aventure ambiguë ’s message of finding God amidst the clamor of the modern world is a theme just as pertinent today as it was fifty years ago. “This confrontation between faith and agnostic culture is far from being resolved. It is the paradigm of the ambiguous and perilous adventure of the modern man, whatever his country, religion, and culture might be.” Prior to an evening of African music and dance performed by Voice of Africa, a talented Utah Valley group, several BYU students paid tribute to Cheikh Hamidou Kane, thanking him for the impact his book has had on
their lives—a “magnificent book that gives a new perspective on faith” and “shows in a very powerful way how we must all find balance in our lives,” in the words of one student. In a presentation the following day, Dr. Mamadou Bâ, from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, emphasized how Kane’s story of a man trapped between the pulls of two starkly different worlds teaches the importance of balance. “In presenting opposing visions of the world, the novel does not propose the choice of one over the other,” Bâ said, “but rather that we situate our human condition in the very crossroad of their relation.” Like Bâ, Dr. Lydie Moudileno, from the University of Pennsylvania, praised Kane’s work, calling it a complex yet universal text whose appeal derives from its consistent ability to inspire. Dr. Souleymane Bachir Diagne, from Columbia University, explored in the novel, and in revealed religion, the ambiguous relationship between the (spoken)
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Word of God and the (written) words of man. Then Abdourahman Wabéri, a master of the word in the new generation of African writers, expanded on the challenges of writing: classics such L’Aventure ambiguë are made when the author manages to connect with God as well as with others. In his closing remarks, Cheikh Hamidou Kane spoke of his second novel, Les Gardiens du Temple (The Keepers of the Temple, published in 1998), where the ambiguities of his early writings find a few pragmatic resolutions. In the end, what really matters is that “on earth as in heaven, God and man complement one another” and that “individual destinies blend into collective purposes.” The colloquium on Africa’s Ambiguous Adventure was funded by the BYU College of Humanities, Undergraduate Education and Honors, the Kennedy Center for International Studies, the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding, the Center for the Study of Europe, and Campus France (the educational arm of the French Embassy). ✦
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Restoration of the
by George B . Handley
Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature
tarting first with the proposition that the humanities and the Restoration both share an interest in the preservation of threatened knowledge and in the recovery of lost knowledge, I would like to suggest further how these two forms of restoration can enjoin the same labor. Brigham Young dispensed with the notion of a strict distinction between sacred and secular forms of knowledge when he insisted that all truth belongs to Mormonism, that “every accomplishment, every polished grace, every useful attainment in mathematics, music, and in all sciences and art belong to the saints.”1 However, this would seem to contradict the notion articulated in the Doctrine and Covenants that the two chief obstacles to our understanding of revealed truth are “disobedience” and “the traditions of [the] fathers” (D&C 93:39). Or as Paul put it, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossions 2:8). If these “traditions” are nothing but fallen discourses, honest but erroneous attempts to express the truth as reflected in contexts that have not enjoyed the fullest light of revelation, perhaps culture deserves, at best, only our cautious and distant
10 H U M A N I T I E S a t B Y U
respect. But Brigham Young’s audacious claim is a call for charity, “to lay hold of every good thing” (Moroni 7:19). Charity is a Christ-centered viewpoint that requires the faith and desire to glean truths from secular sources in all cultures. In this way, secular learning of culture becomes integral to the kingdom’s healthy and ongoing unfolding of the restoration of all things. As the first section of Doctrine and Covenants makes clear, God defines his commandments as divine mandates (they “are of me,” he declares) even though they are also transmitted in the language of local understanding: they “were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language” (D&C 1: 24). So while culture might be the obstacle or weakness that blinds us, it must also become the means or language by which we “might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24). The key to this process is an uncompromised dedication to understanding God’s will that links a lifelong passion for learning both from the word of God—from revelation— and the word of men and women—from the world’s cultures. The humanities—literature, philosophy, history, and the arts—are born of a striving to bear witness to human
experience in all of its varieties, usually under conditions gral to the ongoing restoration of all things. In that the in which the particularities of experience are threatened humanities ask us to engage in imagining the world, or by oblivion. Whether it is against the grain of a dictatoin world-making as the word “poetics” implies, conserial political regime or of the dehumanizing forces of a crated learning becomes a poetics of the Restoration. consumption-obsessed economy like ours, expression in Even if the essential ordinances and doctrines of the humanities offers itself as a kind of countermemory, the gospel have already been restored, the extension and one individual experience at a time, to the oblivious application of the saving power of its doctrines depend tendencies of in part on this power, to the expansion of If we are serious in our devotion to revealed truths, it is passage of time, our understandimperative that we are mindful of how our own culture and to the pering of the broad informs and shapes our understandings. sistent patterns varieties of the of sin. Human human condiexpressions are tion. Because rarely without sin or error, of course, but because they the passion, or suffering, of Christ is compassion—a always demand attention to the particulars of individual suffering with all of humanity—cultivating the mind lives and distinct cultures, they can provide a valuable of Christ means developing an increasingly profound check against our tendency to rush to quick and glib understanding of how the gospel relates to the diversity, generalizations about what we deem to be the universals range, and levels of human experience. It means learnof human experience. If, as it has often been said, it is ing Christ’s atoning sorrow, which is an expression of hard not to love someone whose story you know, it is understanding or feeling for the particularities of human also easy to hate or ignore someone whose story you can circumstances. Thus, although “the traditions of men” are generalize. always a potential roadblock to understanding gospel The humanities also help us to see how our own truths, passion for the humanities founded on devotion particulars of cultural context have shaped our views, to the Lord helps the believer to use the humanities’ including our views of God. Revealed religion, of course, portrayal of those very particularities to consecrated is by definition an expression of truth that transcends ends. human particulars, but, if we are serious in our devotion Both secular and spiritual knowledge require a to revealed truths, it is imperative that we are mindful patient forbearance, a willingness to allow truth to surof how our own culture informs and shapes our underface only after earnest experimentations upon the word, standings. Only by comparative and promiscuous readas Alma describes (see Alma chapter 32). This kind of ing about individual lives embedded in other cultures patient and deepened vision will not come from a supercan we become more aware of our embeddedness in ficial assessment and least of all from a cold dismissal our own. Perhaps the “traditions of men” that are most dangerous are those ideologies and discourses that willfully ignore the sanctity of God’s children and impetuously and impatiently bypass the responsibility of having to approach humanity one story at a time. When we speak of seeing someone’s true “humanity,” we mean that we can see their identity as it has been shaped by time and circumstance, that we have caught a glimpse of the complexity and mystery of their inner life, and that we feel an elemental compassion for their story. It is equally important, of course, to see our own humanity, lest we fail to understand how we might see the world differently had we lived a different life. When the faithful disciple engages deeply with the particulars of a culture and emerges with a changed, reoriented, and enlarged vision of human experience, the humanities prove inteSpring 2011
of cultural difference. Preparatory for anyone to gain refuse to allow God’s word to penetrate our character or greater light and understanding is the cultivation of an when we prefer the life of ideas or convictions to a life of awareness of others that keeps the soul open to mystery committed moral action (see James 1:22–23). We must and wonder in the world around us and a humble accepresist, in other words, the temptation of assuming that it tance of the limits of our understanding. It is no secret matters more to be right than to do good. to lifelong scholars that such awareness of limits only Religion benefits from conscious awareness of the grows with time and effort. Seeking out the “best books” role our own culture has played, for better or for worse, is a step in the direction to be able to say, like Nephi, “I in shaping our understandings of God’s purposes. know that [God] loveth his children, nevertheless I do Consider the ways in which their place in a particular not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). culture and at a particular moment in history blinded Belief in Christ, in other words, requires vigilant awarePeter and his fellow disciples from understanding on ness of what we do not know and cannot be separated the eve of the Pentecost just how much more generfrom a vital interest in the world, in the affairs of men ously they needed to apply the gospel. Despite their and women, and in the many cultural expressions that ultimate inclusion of the Gentiles, Christ chastised shed light on the human experience. the Old World disciples for their “stiffneckedness and It is our human condition to inherit culture, so the unbelief ” because they failed to understand how much traditions of men are going to shape and compromise more diverse and geographically distant the other sheep the way we understand the gospel, one way or another. might be (3 Nephi 15:18). To have congratulated themThis is one reason why we are wise to overturn the soils selves merely for finally understanding that the Gentiles of culture from time to time, lest the truths that we deserved the gospel fell short of understanding just how think we hold dear become reified, heretical, or false. many “Gentiles” the world over in far away and even Mormon explains that the intellectual purpose of charity unknown lands qualified for the blessings of the gospel. is to “search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may If it is “stiffneckedness” to have failed to imagine a know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every people on a land mass previously unknown to the Old good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a World, how much more unfaithful to the Lord is it for child of Christ” (Moroni 7:19). Further, in D&C 98:11, us to live in this age of unprecedented access to global it states: “I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall information to willfully ignore the particular histories, forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live experiences, languages, and cultures of all of God’s by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth children. We rightly look forward to the prophesied day of God.” Discipleship, in other words, is incomplete when Zion will be the envy of the world for its cultural if we are merely accomplishments content to forsake and secular knowlZion’s greatness, I believe, will come because evil by holding on edge, but we have we will leave no stone unturned, because we to what we already too often imagined have an insatiable curiosity about how others have. that this would have generated ideas and lived values unique While we involve an immerto their circumstances. mustn’t use faith as sion in our own an excuse to avoid Mormon uniqueness the risks of learning and growing, discipleship is also and exceptionality and our claim to have the complete incomplete if, in our attempt to identify and cleave treasure-house of knowledge. If the traditions of men unto the good in the lives of men and women, we do can be the stumbling block to our proper understandnot maintain, as a keel and rudder on an otherwise ing of the gospel, we cannot hope to sort through the perpetually drifting ship, an orthodox devotion to what murky diversity of human experience in order to identify has already been revealed. This is perhaps the fate of no dangerous falsehoods if we are not equally committed small number of aspiring scholars who, willing to take to finding marvelous truths, that is, those portions of notes in lecture halls and to study long hours into the the word that he has told us has been revealed across night, remain unwilling to give the scriptures or the the world, to men, women, and children, according to teachings of the prophets more than a cursory glance. the “heed and diligence which they give unto him” (see As James reminds us, culture blinds all of us when we Alma 12:9–11 and Alma 32:23). No perpetuation of 12 H U M A N I T I E S a t B Y U
the Restoration is possible if we turn our back on the many rich and varied traditions of men and women, the cultural achievements of the so-called heathen. Zion’s greatness, I believe, will come because we will leave no stone unturned, because we have an insatiable curiosity about how others have generated ideas and lived values unique to their circumstances. Of course, lest we lose our moorings in the process, individual devotion to the Lord’s oracles is the beginning and returning point for all learning. It is also useful to remember that no one person can obtain sufficient knowledge to fully grasp the extent of the Restoration of all things. In this quest, there is no room for academic, political, or cultural chauvinism, or for antiintellectualism or fears of honest and open discussion of opinions. We don’t want to be like those in Milton’s day who wished to burn or ban books because they preferred an orthodoxy based on hearsay or on authority alone and not on personal witness or investigation. Milton believed that secular learning could aid in “reforming the Reformation” because truth always needed further revision. “Opinion in good men,” he wrote, “is but knowledge in the making.”2 For Milton, the earnest Christian’s duty was to “hear . . . all manner of reason” and to commit to “books read promiscuously.”3 In other words, Milton understood that truth had been scattered throughout the world and that its broken body must be searched for aggressively and reassembled in a gathering of insights from all books. Mormon suggests similarly that human judgment is flawed by two fundamental errors: judging that which is evil “to be of God and that which is good and of God to be of the devil” (Moroni 7:15). Mistaking truth for error is as morally dangerous as mistaking error for truth. The countless truths that have been buried by such mistaken judgments historically have been ruinous and arguably the very reason why art and why a dispensation of Restoration are necessary. As Milton notes, “Revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.”4 The only way he could imagine that we could fight against these consequences was to adopt a spirit of anticipation: “The light which we have gained was given us, not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge.”5 Our willingness to withhold premature judgment about how ideas fit into the great expanse of God’s knowledge requires charity, Christ’s power to “bear all things,” which, among other benefits, strengthens us
with patience to withstand the apparent contradictions of ideas, thus keeping us open to greater understanding. This openness gains direction gradually because it is framed by belief in an eventual restoration of all things. Without faith in this ultimate moment of circumscription of all truth to act as our compass, the partial knowledge we obtain against the great tide of chaos and forgetting that seems to be the sea we swim in would diminish, instead of instill, hope. Indeed, we might say that knowing an idea, feeling its truth, is a brief glimpse into a mind in which all things are known. It is as if we instinctively feel that our newfound comprehension is evidence that ideas can never be lost, even if they are often lost to our memory or changed by new information. Trust in the Restoration means that we play at secular learning, experimenting on the word long enough to harvest what fruit an idea bears. In his monumental essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” T. S. Eliot argues against culture’s tendency to fetishize originality and uniqueness, what “least resembles anyone else,” in a work of art.6 The newness that we think we admire in a great work of art is really a function of the individual talent’s ability to transmit tradition as if it were new. This poetics of reimagining and rearranging the past allows the individual talent to render all ages contemporaneous. Eliot notes that “not only the best, but the most individual parts of [an individual’s] work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.”7 These voices of the dead are displaced and reorganized by the voice of the individual talent so that new understandings emerge that simultaneously feel like things we always or once knew. It is as if to say that creating a new work of art is really only a poetic reading, a restoration of what an earlier work of inspiration sought to express. So one mistake we might make when we suggest that Mormons can achieve the level of accomplishment of the Bachs and Shakespeares of the world is to assume that there is a kind of radical originality in what must be accomplished. If we really believe in the Restoration, it is well to remember that as unique as we sometimes insist it is, Mormon belief is nothing new; it is the oldest understanding of the cosmos. So we could say that we already have our “Mormon” Bach: the J. S. Bach of the Brandenburg Concertos and the B-minor mass we have come to love. There are as many Mormon writers as there are Mormon readers. That is not to say that we shouldn’t aspire to Bach-like or Melville-like Spring 2011
accomplishments, but who would want a culture without American nationalism, with a specific political party, Bach or Melville? If we are serious about the endeavor ethnicity, and geography. This is most evident, perof gathering the house of Israel and if all of world culhaps, in the way that US Americans who descend from ture is up for grabs, Mormon culture stands to become British Island and Scandinavian stock tend to read their something much more broad and inclusive, much more own story into the Book of Mormon to the exclusion diverse, and much more sympathetic to the world than of other Americas and other Americans. This is despite any of us has imagined. Indeed, it would seem that it has the fact that the book is not exclusively about Angloto if the work of Restoration is to go forward. American experience within the geopolitical borders Mormon individual talent will achieve greatness of the United States. Rather, it describes a geography when it exhibits what Eliot calls a “continual extinction in the Americas of shifting political boundaries with a of personality” because “the poet has, not a ‘personalplurality of cultures of various races. Surely one of its ity’ to express, but a particular medium, . . . in which most powerful messages is its warning against geopolitiimpressions and experiences combine in peculiar and cal chauvinism. Nephi asks us: “Know ye not that there 8 unexpected ways.” The goal of Mormon art or Mormon are more nations than one?” (2 Nephi 29:7). It offers a learning should not be “a turning loose,” to use a phrase vision of unity for that plurality, to be sure, but like the from Eliot, of Mormonness so that the whole world New World’s greatest novels, it also issues stern warnlooks at us in envy to say that we have something ings about the dangers of entrenched claims to identity special, unique, or original.9 I suspect admiration will that use force or chauvinism to achieve unity. Most come when the culture of Mormonism is invested in significantly, it points to additional books of equal value the cultures of the world, when we are seen as a people to come forth from other lands. actively engaged in empathetic, disciplined conversations If America was the cradle of the Restoration, with other traditions, beliefs, and cultures. Eliot is sugperhaps we would do well to consider rethinking what gesting a paradox; the expression of Mormonism would America means; it needn’t be an ethnically narrow and be an escape from whatever we think “Mormonness” geographically restricted America but rather a crossmight mean. We need not fear. This is not a denial or cultural and transnational location where a dizzying denigration of who we think we are, for as Eliot notes, variety of diasporic communities gather, commune, and “Only those who have personality and emotions know influence and change each other, and thereby challenge what it means to want to escape from these things.”10 singular ethnic or political claims on the meaning of any In other words, the individual talent is adopted into the one nation. In other words, if it has been suggested that family tree of cultural achievement without comprothe Restoration took place in the United States because mising originality. In the terms I have been discussing, of its particular opportunities of religious and political this talent is a reading of the past that is simultaneously freedoms, perhaps it is time to consider that American a transmission of the old and a creation, a poetics, of experience has also laid the groundwork for a New something Jerusalem, a new. This has Zarahemla of Admiration will come when the culture of Mormonism is important sorts, that can invested in the cultures of the world, when we are seen as a become one implications for a conpeople actively engaged in empathetic, disciplined conversa- of the great temporary gathering tions with other traditions, beliefs, and cultures. LDS religious places of the culture that is world’s culstill very much invested in our uniqueness, still predomitures: the Americas of Canada, the United States, nantly shaped by American culture and history, and still Central America, the Caribbean, and South America; emerging from its origins on the Wasatch Front. the Americas of Native Americans from Tierra del Indeed, we seem as a culture to be at a crossroads. Fuego to the Arctic; of Asian immigrants from Canada We are becoming increasingly international in memberto Argentina; of the vast African diaspora; the Americas ship, multilingual as a body and as individual members, of Latin American, Arab, European, and other internaand global in our reach. And yet we remain as closely tional and intranational migrations. These have all yet to identified as ever with a narrowly defined version of play their transformative role in the Restoration. 14 H U M A N I T I E S a t B Y U
In their habits of reading and learning, some Mormons feel hesitant to embrace the educational and scholarly objectives of our politically correct and multicultural times because of today’s increasing balkanization of identity and secularism. But there are dangers too of a narrow cultural or geographical claim on eternal truth because of the ways that it isolates and excludes. Surely it is not insignificant that the Book of Mormon tells the story of immigrants, portrays the brotherhood between races, and exposes in no uncertain terms the unfinished nature of God’s revelations to humankind. Indeed, the Book of Mormon exposes the story of lost histories that are the result of sin, arrogance, and violence. It calls for greater humility and repentance in light of the ruptures and gaps of history, and continual need to circle back again to that which has been hidden since the foundation of the world. The Restoration in the last days implies that history moves forward but also leaves behind in its wake a series of forgettings; history, in other words, results in simultaneous rupture and continuity. The Book of Mormon, for example, portrays the arrival of the Gentiles in the New World, an event that results simultaneously in the perpetuation of God’s covenants and a loss of truth. (The Gentiles were presumably not only our British but also our Hispanic forebears. I see no reason why the Book of Mormon’s account of the discovery of the Americas is not also telling the story of Hispanic Catholic colonies who, arguably more assiduously than the English Protestants, devoted extraordinary efforts to bringing the word of God to millions of the native inhabitants of the Americas.) We are told that the Gentiles receive “the power of the Lord” to defeat their mother colonies and to exercise power over the Native Americans to establish territory for themselves “out of captivity” (1 Ne. 13:16, 13). They carry with them the word of God, which contains “the covenants of the Lord” but is also missing “many parts which are plain and most precious” (1 Ne. 13:23, 26).
The results are mixed: the Gentiles are simultaneously described as “lifted up by the power of God above all other nations” and yet the fragmented truths they possess “blind and harden the hearts of the children of men” and “an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them,” resulting in an “awful state of blindness” (1 Ne. 13:27, 29, 32). History, when not restricted by geopolitical interests, tells the stories of great and flawed founders. It is hard to see why we should give sole priority to the story of European settlement in the New World when in its wake, thousands of Indians were enslaved, only to be replaced by millions of Africans; and millions of Indians died of disease, so many that by the midseventeenth century, the indigenous population of the Americas, estimated to be at 54 million prior to 1492, fell by almost ninety percent. Literary and historical production in the Americas, especially over the last fifty years, has shown profound interest in the early years of colonialism, the breadth and depth of over three centuries of African slavery throughout the Americas, and indigenous life. Moreover, the stories of immigrants and their family memories, the ethnic plurality of cities in the Americas, and the connections between the Americas and the rest of the world have figured more prominently in the literary and scholarly imagination of hundreds of writers and thinkers throughout the Americas than in any previous era of history. They suggest that the profound differences among a plurality of Americans and Americas should challenge us to imagine our kinship, since in the end the great meaning of the gathering of the house of Israel is not always blood descent but adoption. This commitment to hearing scattered stories is a means of testing and potentially expanding the limits of community. It is how a poetics of restoration can avoid the pitfalls of an unhealthy obsession with a community’s unique and sometimes hardened claims to its claim to roots. We see these obsessions whenever there is undue pride about Spring 2011
the exceptional nature of a particular culture’s origins or covenant, a binding of all the families of the earth, it unhealthy protectionism about the purity and singuis an understatement to say that there remains a lot of larity of those origins. It is not insignificant that such work to do to prepare our hearts to welcome all of God’s negative protectionism has so often yielded to violence. children. Every conversion to the gospel, every consecraIt certainly enriches our understanding of the past to tion of one individual life, and every way of seeing the acknowledge heroism and inspired acts and newords, world within the framework of the great plan of happibut it does not diminish America to acknowledge the ness represents an adoption and an architectural retrofitviolence, the pride, ting of the house of and the stumbling Israel. The spirit of Every conversion to the gospel, every consecration blocks that have Elijah in its broadof one individual life, and every way of seeing the also moved hisest sense represents world within the framework of the great plan tory forward. Such the search for lost of happiness represents an adoption and an acknowledgement knowledges in architectural retrofitting of the house of Israel. does not preclude the world and the the possibility attempt to convert that any nation’s affairs have been providentially aided. transgression and errantry, individuality and particularIndeed, doing so helps us to see providence more clearly ity, bloodlines and geographies, into the new substance against the background of human choices. If we were to of the story of all humankind. We can never be sure take the Book of Mormon as our inspiration, we might we properly understand the relationships we imagine see a recovery of such plural and sometimes contradicamong cultures, but charity to bear all things, includtory histories as our sacred duty. ing, for the time being what appear to be unassimilable Genealogy teaches both the diachronic heritage differences, may allow us the opportunity to restore back through time and the synchronic interrelatedness the meaning and shape of the community we hope to of communities across time. Family trees are sometimes establish. In this sense, we are invoked as poetic creused to stress parental links at the expense of the vast ators in this ongoing restoration of all things. The aim and virtually unmappable network of kinship every is to remake our Mormonness, both individually and as human being possesses across time with an innumera culture, so as to allow more and more of the world’s able family of lost cousins. The genealogical search is a hidden truths to resonate in what we claim to believe, a discovery of heritage, but it can also be a discovery of prospect that I think bodes well for performing the great the limits of our understanding of blood, the perpetual labor of the gathering of Israel and the restoration of all mystery of life stories that remain beyond our grasp, and things. ✦ the need to supplement the inevitable lack of sufficient 1. Brigham Young, quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, “The Gospel documentation with imagination. If there was a time Vision of the Arts,” Ensign 3 ( July 1977), 3. when those inspired by the spirit of Elijah were able to 2. John Milton, “Areopagitica,” in The Norton Anthology of English boast of their monarchic ancestors in the Old World Literature, ed. Stephen Greenblatt, et al. (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2006), 717. as far back as 1066, perhaps it is time we start using 3. Milton, “Areopagetica, 713. genealogy to help us see our responsibilities toward our 4. Milton, “Areopagetica, 712. present-day kin among the far-flung races and religions 5. Milton, “Areopagetica, 716. of the world we inhabit. To express ourselves, to know 6. Eliot, T. S. “Tradition and the Individual Talent” in Selected Prose ourselves, and to be truthful to our heritage all imply of T. S. Eliot. Ed. Frank Kermode. (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1975), p. 37. that we become answerable to and interested in other 7. Eliot, “Tradition and Individual Talent,” 39. peoples, other cultures, other times and places. 8. Eliot, “Tradition and Individual Talent,” 40, 42. Who and what we imagine our community to 9. Eliot, “Tradition and Individual Talent,” 43. include is often more potent than what our bloodlines 10. Eliot, “Tradition and Individual Talent,” 43. indicate about our identity, and this is why culture is so important to understanding ourselves and others. If our ultimate objective is the community of the Abrahamic
16 H U M A N I T I E S a t B Y U
Books that made
Gary Totten Moorhead, Minnesota English MA, 1993
The Road ✦ by Cormac McCarthy I first read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road soon after it won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I was profoundly moved by the novel and its thought-provoking exploration of the complex dynamics of parent-child relationships. The father in the novel protects the boy from the horror around them, and the boy also keeps faith when the father’s faith wavers. I have since read the novel many times and include it in the reading assignments in my own college literature courses.
Louis Dorny Seattle, Washington German BA, 1966; MPA, 1980
simple farmer has lost his much-loved wife in death, and complains bitterly, only to be answered by Death. Alternately patient and understanding and then direct and demanding, the two struggle to make their points and counter those of their opponent, in thirty-three essays, with God having the last word. Classic literary counterpoint, beautifully done in poetic prose. The German in my 1957 Insel-Bucherei edition is modern, not the original, but the pages are rich in perspective and passion, rhetoric, and reason, evocative in the use of vocabulary, cadence, and rhyme. The style of the writer, carefully precise and pointed, allows the farmer and Death each to pile one point upon another in making their case, almost as in a court of law, the dialogue laced with heavy doses of scorn, vehemence, outrage, sarcasm, and irony, sometimes careless courage, and then a responsive rebuttal just as keenly presented. The plowman has no recourse, naturally, and in the end must resign himself to Death taking his sweetheart away. The emerging ferment in the theology of that time—Jan Hus and the emergence of the Reformation—cannot help but influence the exchange, as the author crafts a masterwork that inspires with concepts that lift and lighten our path, reminding us to put spiritual things above earthly things. As an LDS reader, I see that the author drew upon a wise source for his ideas and expression. 1. (The Plowman from Bohemia) or Der Ackermann und der Tod. 2. Also known as Johannes von Saaz.
Der Ackermann aus Böhmen1 ✦ by Johannes von Tepl2 Books and reading—–what an incomprehensible gift to each of us. Looking back on a half century and more, there are many that have stirred and stroked, but only about a half-dozen stand out. One of them, Johannes von Tepl’s Der Ackermann aus Böhmen, one of the first books printed in German (written about 1400, printed about sixty years later), is fascinating on several levels. A
Let us hear from you! Tell us about a book, or several, that made a difference for you, at some point in your life. Include your name, major, year of graduation, and current place of residence, with a description about the book’s influence on you. Email email@example.com Spring 2011
Why I Choose to give Did everyone catch the inside front cover of the Winter 2011 issue of Humanties at BYU? My check for the College’s internship programs—possibly the smallest I ever wrote in my life—was in the mail immediately: 369 pennies for a good Dr. Ilona Klein cause. I cannot even Professor of Italian, call it generosity on BYU my part. It’s more like giving up a couple of bagels, or half the price of a movie ticket, or a slice of pizza at the mall.
. . . 369 Pennies There is something magic about the power that people have as a collective body. As teachers, as alumni, as students entering the workforce for the first time, we sometimes might feel powerless to affect changes in the world, thinking that one tiny gesture on the part of a single individual cannot do much. I have learned to think wide, to think macro-cosmically! When we all put together our little 369 pennies, we can move mountains, and we can raise the $100,000 committed by the Dean. 369 pennies multiplied by the power of the Humanities can be huge. ✦
How I have been blessed My internship in Moscow, Russia, was a pivotal moment in my education at BYU. I worked in the Slavic Center for Law and Justice, learning from individuals and clocking 40 hours a week translating memoranda, press releases, and other legal Jon Olsen, documents. In addition to these BA in Russian responsibilities, I gained exposure to and Economics, the Russian legal system by witnessing two oral arguments, one in 2010 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the other in the Moscow City Court. I am now a first-year student at Columbia Law School and I cannot overstate the importance of this internship in shaping my future career. Thank you so much. ✦ 18 H U M A N I T I E S a t B Y U
Alumni News “A Math Assignment”—How It Totals Up So Far Percent of goal reached
n the last issue of Humanities at BYU, Dean Rosenberg asked each person who receives this magazine to contribute $3.69, that person’s share of a goal of raising $100,000 to increase internships and make them more affordable to students. Thanks to Dr. Klein (see page 18) and a handful of others, we have made a start towards our goal. To date we have over $4,400 (4 percent of our goal) but, as you can see, the number of respondents is so low it hardly registers on the above graph. We need many, many more of you to respond
Education Week— Humanities Home Evening On Monday, August 15, 2011, we will be holding the second annual “Humanities Home Evening” for Education Week attendees and all Humanities alumni and friends in the Provo area. Dr. Donald Parry, Professor of Hebrew, will talk about his research on the Dead Sea Scrolls. The program will be from 7:00–8:00 p.m. in room B002 of the JFSB. For more information, please contact Carol Kounanis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Washington, DC, Event
in order for us to reach our goal. Oftentimes when we apply for grants from corporations and foundations, they want to know about alumni contributions—not the amount of money contributed by alumni, but the percentage of alumni participating. A high participation rate indicates that our alumni valued their experiences here and want to ensure that others have the same opportunities. We hope you’ll consider joining Dr. Klein and your fellow alumni to help us bless our students now and in the future.
Chicago Event Humanities alumni and friends in the Chicago area: mark your calendars on September 18, 2011, for a program by Dr. David Paulsen, Professor of Philosophy. Dr. Paulsen holds a degree in Law from the University of Chicago and has written numerous articles on Joseph Smith, as well as articles on philosophy and religion. For more details, please contact Carol Kounanis at email@example.com.
Dr. John Rosenberg, Dean of the College of Humanities, hosted an event with Humanities alumni at the Milton A. Barlow Center (site of the BYU Washington Seminar) on February 23, 2011. It was wonderful to meet so many successful alumni and hear about their interesting career paths. We know there were many more alumni who were unable to attend the event due to location or schedule conflicts, but take heart—there will be more events to come! To be added to the list for future events, please contact Carol Kounanis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Spring 2011
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fe�����k� We’d like to hear your views, your memories of campus experiences, or an update on your life since leaving BYU. Please email email@example.com. Humanities at BYU is the alumni magazine of the College of Humanities.
College of Humanities
John R. Rosenberg, Dean Ray Clifford, Associate Dean Gregory Clark, Associate Dean Scott Sprenger, Associate Dean Ron Woods, Assistant Dean Dave Waddell, Assistant Dean Jared Christensen, College Controller Karmen Smith, Executive Secretary
Academic Department Chairs
Scott Miller, Asian and Near Eastern Languages Ed Cutler, English Corry Cropper, French and Italian Michelle James, Germanic and Slavic Languages Michael Call, Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature William Eggington, Linguistics and English Language Dan Graham, Philosophy Lin Sherman, Spanish and Portuguese
Academic Center Directors
Ray Clifford, Center for Language Studies Neil Anderson, English Language Center Jill Rudy, American Studies Jesse Crisler, Center for Christian Values in Literature Dana Bourgerie, Chinese Flagship Program Kirk Belnap, National Middle East Language Resource Center
Karmen Smith, Executive Secretary: 801-422-2779; firstname.lastname@example.org Carol Kounanis, LDS Philanthropies at BYU: 801-422-8294; email@example.com College Website: humanities.byu.edu
Publication of Humanities at BYU
Ron Woods, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org Mel Thorne, Managing Editor Caitlin Schwanger and Camille Hartwig, Editorial Assistants