full name / name of organization:
Mormon Scholars in the Humanities
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The 2014 Mormon Scholars in the Humanities conference will gather the evening of March 27th through midday on the 29th in Claremont, California; we are grateful the Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont will host the gathering. The conference theme is narrative. Papers don’t have to be about stories. We are interested in what Mormon scholars are doing; we are interested in what non-Mormon scholars are doing that touches on the LDS tradition. The presentations need not be about LDS history, theology, society, or culture. Just tell us something interesting about your current research, and the program committee will try to find a unifying thread for sessions.
Our keynote speaker will be Richard Kearney; his homepage at Boston College can be viewed at the following URL: https://www2.bc.edu/~kearneyr/. Dr. Kearney is a philosopher (specializing in the continental tradition) who has also written engagingly, clearly, and with marvelous insight on narrative theory and theology; we look forward to seeing how he will revisit the topic of narrative.
The study of narrative is now interdisciplinary and increasingly important within disciplinary silos. Narrative theory has also over the past few decades has been increasingly imperialistic. Long the domain of literary critics, now narrative’s theorists are claiming that all human understanding is narrative. The following are examples of some central issues regarding narrative in various disciplines.
I. Philosophy: the epistemological and ethical implications of story are increasingly being studied by philosophers and phenomenologists who ask if narrative is the way that human experience comes packaged. Many philosophers also insist that readers become better people (more empathetic) by reading stories.
II. Religious Studies: scriptures most commonly come in story form. Biblical critics tussle over whether or not the narrative form undermines the content’s historicity; similar claims are made about Mormon scripture. Narrative theology often asserts that an excess escapes ratiocination, that this abundance can’t be contained by the categories inherited from the Enlightenment.
III. History: the boundary between fiction and history has always been problematical, but over the past four decades historiography has increasingly found the boundary difficult to fix. Before the discipline attempted to become scientific, historians recognized that both literature and history were branches of the same tree—rhetoric. In the past few decades a return to the status quo ante has been achieved with a difference.
IV. Literature: literary criticism is the disciplinary home of narrative theory. Such theorizing has been done there longer and has developed more sophisticated vocabulary and tools than other fields. Abundant opportunities for examination of literary texts (of fictional and nonfictional kinds) exists. Wallace Martin argues that part of the recent paradigm shift in the humanities and social sciences is the return of narrative from marginal status to “inhabit the very center of other disciplines as modes of explanation necessary for an understanding of life.”
V. Gender Studies: The expansion of the story of equality is one notable story as women writers marked out a place for themselves. Hawthorne dismissed that mob of scribbling women who became so popular that they squeezed him out the place he thought he deserved on readers’ bookshelves. The emergence of women authors and women readers is a world-historical development in Western literacy. Readings are increasingly viewed as gendered.
VI. Legal studies: Stories have a revered place in legal decisions and legal reasoning. In legal arguments the heavy rhetorical lifting is often performed by case studies, examples, or hypothetical situations: stories.
VII. Social Sciences: narrative theory has increasingly penetrated the social sciences. For social scientists in the positivistic tradition, stories are too subjective, too anecdotal, to be proper evidence. Such narratives aren’t suitable for generalization. Is a statistic just a story trying to shed it particularity? Maynes, Pierce, and Laslett assert that narrative makes distinctive epistemological claims on us because it is individual and personal.
Please send inquiries or presentation proposals to Alan Goff at email@example.com. The deadline for proposals is December 31, 2013 with notification of acceptance within two weeks. Plan for 20 minute presentations in assembling a proposal.