In Tents #48 He is Risen and Other Texts That Don’t Behave as Textual Critics Think They Do Part IX

In September, as the Isaiah lessons were approaching in Gospel Doctrine, I decided to read three translations of Isaiah, the Jewish Publication Society translation (which I found discarded somewhere on campus 30+ years ago), Avraham Gileadi’s The Apocalyptic Book of Isaiah, and David Rosenberg’s selections in A Poet’s Bible. I started with JPS because I wanted to see why scholars argue Isaiah was written by more than one writer (an argument used occasionally against the Book of Mormon, since some of the Isaiah chapters it quotes are said to have been written after 600 BC–after Lehi would have had access to them). I soon found I was getting through about 1 column of the introduction during my daily commute, since I was reading all the scripture citations. At that rate I wouldn’t even get to the text before the lessons began, so I switched to Gileadi.

Gileadi’s accompanying “Apocalyptic Key” is an explicit statement that this text doesn’t behave the way textual critics think it does. The day we started studying Isaiah in Old Testament Part II Rabbi Dr. Gileadi started the lesson by saying Isaiah works as a single unified text with an elaborate structure of parallels and echoes. It is not the work of more than one author. He begins “An Apocalyptic Key” by noting what ought to be obvious, that assigning Isaiah to more than one author fragments the text. That’s so obvious that we don’t think, until an Avraham Gileadi or a Robert Alter (see The World of Biblical Literature and The Five Books of Moses) points it out, that concentrating on the fragments means missing the overall literary structure–and not simply missing it but being unable to see it, since fragmenting a text precludes looking at it as a literary unity.

Gileadi acknowledges reasons to see the text as fragmented, Isaiah’s “three distinct historical settings, and its divided content of prophetic oracles and written discourses” (171), but doesn’t spend more time than that, preferring to spend time demonstrating the unity of the text. Along the way he presents a way to determine when to interpret historical passages as literal, figurative or apocalyptic. If a section about a historical figure doesn’t match the historical record we should interpret that section as apocalyptic. That is, part of the book’s structure is to see historical characters as types of characters who will appear on the scene in the last days, Cyrus, for example. Some of what we read about Cyrus doesn’t match the historical record, so we should read those parts as type-scenes of the latter days (see 194, 202).

Cyrus? How did his name get in there? Wasn’t Isaiah writing 150 years before Cyrus? Continue reading

Posted in Literary Views of Scripture | 1 Comment

in verse #48 : Voice of the turtle

That title is not a reference to Mitch McConnell, no matter how much people say he resembles a turtle. No, it’s a reference to “Canticles,” a book of the Bible hitherto unknown by this moniker to me, but familiar to you as “The song of Solomon,” and it is of interest to us not only because that book is the only one Joseph Smith picked out as “not inspired writings,” and in fact only secular wedding poetry (at least he understood the text, which is more than I can say for many of the monks who struggled to understand the book and place it in the Bible).  The phrase “the voice of the turtle” occurs in the 2nd chapter:

8The voice of my beloved! behold,
he cometh leaping upon the mountains,
skipping upon the hills.
9My beloved is like a roe or a young hart:
behold, he standeth behind our wall,
he looketh forth at the windows,
shewing himself through the lattice.
10My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
11For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
12The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
13The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

This is of interest to us — well, to me — as an example of Hebrew poetic form. It is also an example of how the sap rises in spring. So, appropriately enough, in this context, we will discuss the voice of Walt Whitman. Continue reading

Posted in In Verse, Literary Views of Scripture, The Past through Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas for Christmas


'Liahona' by RA Christmas





Posted in In Verse | Tagged | Leave a comment

Reviews for Harrison’s The Bishop’s Wife

s Wife Mette Ivie Harrison’s The Bishop’s Wife, a mystery set in a Mormon ward in Draper, Utah, will be published by the New York City publisher Soho Press on December 30. The reviews have started to come in. Here are some excerpts. Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | Leave a comment

2006-2007 Mormon Literature Years in Review

[I am continuing to republish the Mormon Literature Year In Review columns that I first posted on the AML-list discussion list. Here are my 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 reviews. My 2008 (Part 1a, 1b, 2) 2009 (Part 1, 2), and 2010 (Part 1, 2) reviews appeared at A Motley Vision, and then in the years after that they appeared on this blog.]

Mormon Literature Year(s) in Review, 2006-2007

Since 1999 I have written an annual review of the trends within the world of Mormon prose literature, theater, and film. In 2006 I let the year slip by without getting to the reviews. I will try to make up for that with a review of both 2006 and 2007. I divide my review into two parts: prose literature by Mormon-specific publishers and prose literature for national publishers.

Part 1: Mormon-market Literature, 2006-2007

Continue reading

Posted in This Week in Mormon Literature | 1 Comment

Waiting for the Mormon Serial

A couple of weeks back I did something I’m awfully good at: I stuck my foot in my mouth. A friend had posted a link on Facebook to a T-shirt designed by another friend. A black shirt that read in white block letters: “Adnan did it.” I commented on the post: “Wow. People are jerks.” To which the shirt’s designer promptly replied, “Thanks.” Yep, that’s my foot, and it’s in my mouth. But I should probably rewind a bit and explain.

Over the past couple of months, I have listened obssessively to a new podcast called Serial. An offshoot of the popular NPR program This American Life, Serial has broken records as the most listened-to podcast ever with something like 5 million listeners.

Serial is faithful to its name. It tells a fascinating story over a number of episodes, each roughly an hour long. The finale, episode 12, airs this Thursday. The premiere season revisits a 15-year-old murder. In late January 1999 a Baltimore teenager disappeared; her body was discovered in a park a month later. Her ex-boyfriend, a high school senior, would eventually be convicted of the crime; he is presently serving a life sentence. He still maintains his innoence.

Sarah Koenig, the podcast’s writer and host, has rehashed the case over the past year. She’s sifted through court records and police interviews, logging numerous hours of phone conversations with Adnan Syed, the man the state of Maryland found guilty of killing Hae Min Lee. With each episode—and I promise, there are no spoilers here—I swing back and forth in my belief regarding either Adnan’s guilt or innocence. As I listen, I ask myself: If Adnan didn’t do it, who did? Why did the police never really investigate Hae’s current boyfriend Don, a man considerably older than she? What was Adnan’s lawyer thinking? What’s the deal with that guy named Jay? Who is telling the truth? But did Adnan do it after all? Could he?

Beyond all of that is a simple truth: A girl is dead. A high school senior. A girl with dreams, with plans, with college ahead of her. With life ahead of her. A girl who wrote in her diary about boys and school, who had a great sense of humor, who played lacrosse and field hockey, who had a job at the LensCrafters at the mall.

What troubles me the most about Serial and its sudden, overwhelming popularity is that this story, this true and tragic situation, is being treated as an entertainment. It’s taken over conversations at water coolers everywhere. Separated by 15 years and the frame of a podcast, we talk easily about the people involved in the case like they are characters on a Dick Wolf crime procedural. Sure, the story is fascinating. But does that mean it’s acceptable to weigh a man’s guilt and innocence flippantly, like we might consider entrees on a menu or prices at the gas pump? “Are you on Team Adnan, or Team Don?”

And yet I won’t stop listening. I can’t stop listening. I want to know more. Serial is well crafted, a narrative that just sucks you in. My writer’s brain wants to create as complete a picture as I can of the murder and the events surrounding it. I want to wander the halls of Woodlawn High School with Hae and Adnan, understand their relationship, deducing what drove them apart, all the time wondering if those events drove Adnan to murder. It’s almost as if I appreciate the humanity and reality of the story more because it makes me uncomfortable.

You might ask: Mel, what does any of this have to do with drama, let alone Mormon drama? Maybe not a lot, so I hope you’ll forgive me. But it’s got me thinking: Mormon history is pretty thorny and uncomfortable, and that thorniness is a turn-off for many. I may be the odd one out, but the thorny bits intrigue me. Do we as Latter-day Saints have a story of Serial proportions? And though it may be all kinds of difficult to hear, I’m definitely looking forward to the telling of it.

Posted in Electronic Age, On-stage, Storytelling and Community | 4 Comments