Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Details of the BYU English Major {part one}

Preface: I love my English major. All things considered, I should probably have a more dignified/articulate way of saying "I love love LOVE studying literature."

Today I've been reading Elder Perry's Conference talk about Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, and simplicity. And might I just say, it is talks like this that make me glad to be an Enlish major at BYU. Elder Perry could have walked into any BYU English 293 class (American Literary History), given his talk, and it would have passed as a pretty decent lecture. In fact, I was struck by the similarities between Elder Perry's talk and the lecture Trent Hickman gave on Throeau when I was in 293. But obviously Dr. Hickman talked about a lot of things Elder Perry did not, and I want to tell you about one of them.

When I took 293, we learned about Thoreau the week before the April 2007 General Conference. In his lecture, Dr. Hickman taught us the importance of authors like Thoreau in church history. Thoreau was born when Joseph Smith was 12. He was born about 80 miles from where Joseph Smith was born. And he published Walden only 20 years after Joseph published the Book of Mormon. They were contemporaries, and Thoreau's writings were part of the the rhetoric prevelant during the early years of the church. During Joseph Smith's lifetime, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allen Poe, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Emily Dickinson were all contributing to the rhetoric of American Romanticism. What is interesting is... we still use a lot of rhetoric from that time. Words like "supernal" and "sublime" had distinct meanings in Romanticism, and they are used at some point every Conference. And British Romanticists like William Wordsworth are quoted all the time! The "trailing clouds of glory do we come" and "the world is too much with us" quotes are probably the best examples.

Yeah okay, we isolated ourselves from the world in a lot of ways (i.e. moving to Utah) but our church history still fits into an important historical, political, and literary context. In my studies here, I've been able to see how the church fits into that history. And I'm grateful I have that kind of an education. Go Cougs.


  1. That post is amazing. I am so glad you wrote it. Seriously. You are so inspiring and you make me want to be a better person. I just love you, Britt. My inquiry still stands: must you leave?

  2. something I recorded about the people I met in study abroad was that everyone (well, mostly everyone...) was so well read. so well versed. so smart. I wrote that I felt lucky to be associating with such passionate students.

    and I still feel that way about you.

  3. Today in church someone said this exact quote (speaking of Heavenly Father and/or Jesus Christ):

    "He is in the details of your life."

    I love you.


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