Friday, July 29, 2005

Harold Bloom, Walt Whitman & Mormonism: 150 Years of Leaves of Grass

I'm not the most literary or poetic figure, but today's op-ed by Prof. Harold Bloom is noteworthy for two reasons:

1. Comments on Mormonism.
2. Leaves of Grass is really an interesting & rare work. It was required reading for the students in American Heritage (Multicultural & Honors sections) where I was the TA at BYU. Any other classes y'all took that required/encouraged its reading?

re: #1

Bloom's comments include:

"Walt Whitman was the crucial celebrant of what I think we yet will call the American Religion, the momentary fusion of all denominations in an amalgam of Enthusiasm and Gnosticism that marked the beginning of the end of European Protestantism in America, and which began in the Cane Ridge Revival of 1800. The Southern Baptists, Pentecostalists, Mormons, Adventists, and other native strains are ongoing emanations of what began there." Mormonism is a "native strain" emmanating from a religious revival? The intellectual etmoloygies and stream of thought come from this event seem to be pretty powerful stuff.

"Our theologians and prophets of the American Religion include Emerson, Joseph Smith, and Horace Bushnell, among others."

[Note to Kaimi: Yes, this usage is covered by fair use and my subscription agreement with the WSJ.]


Blogger RoastedTomatoes said...

I see something really interesting here. The other three religions that Bloom mentions are also pretty vigorous and distinctive. Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity--by far the most vigorously growing branch of Christianity today--is on the list. So to are the Adventists, also a unique and vibrant religion, and one that shares some interesting traits with us, including the propensity to mix Old Testament ideas with New Testament Christianity.

So, unless you believe that all of these religions are each led by God, we are forced to conclude with Bloom that the Cane Ridge Revival did indeed give birth to an impressive array of distinctive religions.

It would not seem disproportionate to me for a non-believing scholar to include our movement on the list.

10:32 AM  
Blogger john f. said...

Lyle, Bloom's book American Religion is a very interesting read for these issues, particularly the treatment of the Church in comparison with the Baptists and other "native strains" that he mentioned.

12:26 PM  
Blogger W. Lyle Stamps said...

Thanks to ye both for the comments. I've not read Bloom, so I'm unaware of his previous work; other than a vague knowledge that he has a good knowledge of Mormon history.

RT:I'm not saying that his claim is bogus. I was pointing out that it seems plausible, even if for the average, non-elite LDS citizen, it sounds rather far-fetched.

1:11 PM  
Blogger RoastedTomatoes said...

Lyle, thanks for the clarification; I was unsure whether you were being sarcastic or sincere. I'd join with John in recommending Bloom's book, which is quite good.

3:36 PM  

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