THESIS: Conclusion

As I wrap up, I would like to thank my friends and family with whom I've held many, many in-depth and enthusiastic discussions about, well, everything, but especially about books, films and television shows. Any experiential authority I might have in this area is due to you.

I am also immensely grateful to Camille Paglia. I was reading her book about poetry when I wrote this conclusion. Her quotes came in very handy. If there is a place in this universe for a heterosexual, Mormon, Christian, non-Freudian, Anglo-Saxon version of Camille Paglia, I would happily take it.


"I remember being young, in school, being told that our bodies would
yield enough carbon for 2,000 pencils and enough calcium for
30 sticks of chalk, as well as enough iron for one nail.
What a weird thing to tell kids. We should be
told our bodies can transmute into
diamonds and wine goblets and
teacups and balloons."
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland

Votary theory came about because I was uneasy about the treatment of literature in academia. Critical theory, in my estimation, falls consistently short in appreciating artistic works; additionally, I have been unsettled by academe's tendency to deal with literature in ways which undercut, rather than enhance, the creative side of artistic works. In my undergraduate studies, this tendency usually meant jumbling together Marx, Freud, Austen and Fielding in a valiant, if misguided, attempt to fit them all into the same philosophy.(Footnote 1) In my older years, I have perceived a tendency to label and confuse methodologies so that, for instance, history (as an empirical study) is not distinguished from history (as learned narratives), history (as rumor and hearsay) from history (as experienced realities) while all of it is proclaimed patriarchal, Westernized, racist or class-based. Since the study of literature often does not require the cultivation of other disciplines, these distinctions unfortunately are not required of humanities students. Votary theory aims to help students and instructors distinguish the various factors involved in fully understanding a work while focusing on the creative impulse.

I feel qualified to present this tool, not due to any aggressive grounding in critical theory on my part but to my belief that it is possible to maintain separate methodologies (what I will refer to as "understandings") without, on the one hand, forcing a choice between the understandings or, on the other hand, blending the separate understandings into one. The glass and its liquid must be imagined separately even as they are applauded as equally important. It is possible, for example, to believe in the Christian Nativity at the same time that one appreciates the beauty of the actual text (located in the Book of Luke) while acknowledging the lack of empirical evidence for the event (either one way or the other). At work are three different understandings (faith-based, literary and historical), none of which needs to be abandoned for the sake of the other; neither do they need to be reduced to a variable sameness in order for each to preserve its viability.

Unfortunately, we seemed obsessed, as a society, with the idea that we must select positions: God versus science; insider versus outsider; men versus women; the personal versus the objective; Christianity versus other religions; capitalism versus ethics. The world seems composed of packaged ideologies--belief systems made neat. Writing in 1986, Dana Polan summarized this position as it emerges in critical theory. Academic attitudes towards mass culture, Polan contested, vary between the position "that anything narrative in form must support the work of ideology [on the one hand] and on the other hand, that anything non-narrative must necessarily challenge the operations of ideology." Polan argued, instead, for the existence of multiple narratives. She then described a common alternative to binary positioning, an alternative which I consider equally devastating to the study of artistic works: "the new mass culture may operate by offering no models whatsoever, preferring instead a situation in which there are no stable values, in which there are no effective roles that one could follow through from beginning to end."(Footnote 2) I contend that in an attempt to overcome the binary proclivities of our society, perhaps of our biology, the humanities has grabbed hold of Polan's discussed alternative.(Footnote 3) Politics, power-oriented criticism, has filled the vacuum created by the absence of literary models. Hermeneutics, criticizing the criticism, becomes the remaining point of stability. Less abstract theorists retreat into sociological studies, the examination of an audience's social (and quantifiable) use of cultural artifacts.(Footnote 4) In the meantime, the focus on artistic works for their own sakes is abandoned.

Votary theory is not a return to formalism. Rather, votary theory postulates that two, even three, methodologies (understandings) can be maintained at the same time; we can comprehend context at the same time that we comprehend, and appreciate, creative content. We can study historical criticism at the same time we study and appreciate an individual text or performance. However, in order to maintain all understandings in a healthy, responsible fashion, they must be accepted as intrinsically different as well as equally important.

The need for this type of response to artistic works cannot be underestimated. First, a forced choice--context over content, political meaning over creative satisfaction--is not the best defense for the study of the arts. It makes such works susceptible to the changing political climate, lending novels, stories, plays and poetry a sociopolitical purpose while undermining the belief that these works should be studied simply because they exist. If the humanities cannot defend the essence of its discipline, it will lose the ability to defend itself at all.(Footnote 5)

Second, it will not help the humanities to rely on a lack of stable values as a pretext for ignoring either authorial intent or historical context, abandoning works to detractors or to the furtherance of political agendas. It will not strengthen our scholarship if we use works for short-term ends nor will it aid our search for and delight in the creative act to smother it in labels. Comprehension of an artistic work must be achieved through the maintenance of several individual understandings at the same time. The glass without the liquid would be dull and unrewarding. The liquid without the glass is an untenable proposition.(Footnote 6)

I believe that fear of language lies at the root of binary thinking in the humanities and the abandonment of definitive methodologies. We are terrified that, unlabeled, artistic works will control us, rather than the other way around. Hence, the presence, in the humanities, of the right-brained literalism I referred to in Chapter 1. Objective historical evidence is rejected for the sake of social relevance, yet the personal, internal, and creative (not to mention highly demanding) aspects of theology, faith and artistry are rejected for the sake of labels and dot-to-dot explanations. Works become power-related, exclusive, applicable. Events have minimal causes and effects and contain literal (usually power-related) definitions. And everything can be blamed on someone or something.

We need to excise our fear. We need to stop worrying about whether a text will control us. We need to stop fussing about its control over others (if that control even exists). As humanities scholars, we need to stop tidying up our universe. Votary theory is messy; it is also difficult and intellectually demanding; it addresses both the contextual understanding of a work and the creative, and less provable, understanding of that work. We do not need to choose between these understandings. Neither, I will acknowledge, do we need to choose between creative understanding and understanding a work in terms of sociopolitical relationships. But the balance of study has tipped too far in the latter direction. In true binary fashion, the study of power has shut out all else: love, transcendence, greatness of heart, magnanimity, joy, delight, appreciation, mirth, empathy, sorrow, curiosity, magnificence. A study of artistic works that annihilates artistry is quite simply not doing its job. Votary theory, combining artistry and scholarship, provides a solution.
1. This is what occurs when Mormons, who receive a certain amount of theological training in their teen years, go to college. One of the positive aspects is that the "philosophy" in which Mormon students attempt to fit Marx, Freud, Austen, Fielding is cosmic in its proportions.

2. Dana Polan, "Brief Encounters: Mass Culture and the Evacuation of Sense" in Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture, ed. Tania Modleski (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 171, 182.

3. In 1960, C.S. Lewis wrote, "[The human mind] wants to make every distinction a distinction of value; hence those fatal critics who can never point out the differing quality of two poets without putting them in an order of preference as if they were candidates for a prize." Unfortunately, as Lewis would agree, the removal of values entirely from the issue of artistic works isn't much of an answer. C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1960), 27.

4. "It is my deep wish," wrote Joke Hermes, "that we will one day use popular culture more in public debate as a shared source of references and knowledges [sic]." Joke Hermes, Re-reading Popular Culture (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), viii. Hermes is frank that the function of popular culture is the central theme of his book. I reference Hermes not because there is no place for this type of analysis in the humanities but rather as an indication of where much popular culture/humanities scholarship has focused in recent years.

5. Camille Paglia's assessment of the situation is much more brutal: "[A] result of this triumph of ideology over art is that, on the basis of their publications, few literature professors know how to 'read' anymore--and thus can scarcely be trusted to teach that skill to their students. Cultural studies, for example, despite its auspicious name, has been undone by its programmatic Marxism and is a morass of misreadings or overreadings." Paglia is speaking as one trained in New Criticism. She argues against New Criticism's abandonment of context but applauds the proponents of New Criticism for their love of the text: "I revere the artist and the poet, who are so ruthlessly 'exposed' by the sneering poststructuralists with their political agenda. There is no 'death of the author' (that Parisian cliché) in my worldview . . . The modernist doctrine of the work's self-reflexiveness once empowered art but has ended by strangling it in gimmickry." There is not much I can add to Paglia's diatribe. I find it heartening, and revealing, that Paglia, although speaking out of a very different mindset from either C.S. Lewis or Wayne Booth (or Arnold Weinstein) is trying, like them, to free literature from the bog-like literalism of power-oriented criticism. The issue for her is also transcendence: "Yet poetry is not just about itself: it does point to something out there, however dimly we can know it." Camille Paglia, Break, Blow, Burn (New York: Pantheon Books, 2005), ix, xv, emphasis in text.

6. In his book In Defense of History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999), Richard J. Evans (not Richard Paul) argues, "I remain optimistic that objective historical knowledge is both desirable and attainable. So when Patrick Joyce tells us that social history is dead, and Elizabeth Deeds Ermath declares that time is a fictional construct, and Roland Barthes announces that all the world's a text, and Frank Ankersmit swears that we can never know anything at all about the past so we might as well confine ourselves to studying other historians, and Keith Jenkins proclaims that all history is just naked ideology designed to get historians power and money in big university institutions run by the bourgeoisie, I will look humbly at the past and say, despite them all: It really happened, and we really can, if we are very scrupulous and careful and self-critical, find out how it did and reach some tenable conclusions about what it all meant" 220.


Introduction & Chapter 1

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Mukerji, Chandra and Michael Schudson, eds. Rethinking Popular Culture:
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Polan, Dana. "Brief Encounters: Mass Culture and the Evacuation of Sense." In Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture, edited by Tania Modleski,167-185. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

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Tompkins, Jane P., ed. Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-
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Weinstein, Arnold. A Scream Goes Through the House. New York: Random House, 1988.

Chapter 2

Atkinson, Brooks. "The Play." New York Times, October 16, 1946, 35.

Atkinson, Brook. "Theatre: Horror Play." New York Times, March 20, 1957, 33.

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Calta, Louis. "'Duchess of Malfi' Due at Barrymore." New York Times, October 15, 1946, 39.

Chubb, Thomas Caldecot. "These Made It Great." New York Times, July 8, 1951, 148.

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"Display Ad 114." New York Times, August 8, 1946, 20.

"'Duchess of Malfi' Discussion." New York Times, February 28, 1957, 25.

"'The Duchess of Malfi' Revived." Christian Science Monitor, December 30, 1919, 14.

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Melvin, Edwin. "Elizabeth Bergner Starring in Revival of Webster Drama." Christian Science Monitor, September 24, 1946, 5.

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Starrett, Vincent. "Books Alive." New York Times, February 10, 1957, B11.

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"Television Programs." New York Times, March 14, 1961, X14.

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Chapter 3


American Cryonics Society.

Badger, W. Scott Badger, Ph.D. "An Exploratory Survey Examining the Familiarity With
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Bahr, Jeff. "2nd Hour Makes 'Late for Dinner' Worth the Wait." Omaha World-Herald, September 23, 1991, 29.

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The Cryonics Society.

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Internet Movie Database.

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"Late for Dinner." Preview. Video Detective.

Maslin, Janet. "Best part of 'Late for Dinner' comes too little, too late." Minneapolis' Star Tribune, September 23, 1991, 8.

Modleski, Tania. "The Terror of Pleasure: The Contemporary Horror Film and
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"Monday Morning." New York Times, June 11, 1989, T19.

Mukerji, Chandra and Michael Schudson, eds. Rethinking Popular Culture:
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Passalacqua, Andrea. "After Car Accident, 'Forever' Goes Down in Heap." Orlando Sentinel, January 8, 1993, 24.

Polan, Dana. "Brief Encounters: Mass Culture and the Evacuation of Sense." In Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture, edited by Tania Modleski, 167-185. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

Simon, Anne, Ph.D. The Real Science Behind the X-Files. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Sleeper. VHS. Directed by Woody Allen. United States: United Artists, 1973.

Stark, Susan. "'Late for Dinner' isn't Filling Until the End." Detroit News, September 20, 1991, F2.

"TV Program Today." New York Times, April 20, 1987, C19.

"TV Program Today." New York Times, January 15, 1988, C31.

Verducci, Tom and Lester Munson. "What Really Happened to Ted Williams?" Sports
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Whitlow, Brett. "'Forever Young' Ending is Only Half Thawed Out." Orlando Sentinel, December 18, 1992, 30.

Chapter 4 & Conclusion

"Building a Successful Marriage." Ensign, March 1998, 27.

Dew, Sheri. "It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to be Alone." Ensign, November 2001, 12.

Evans, Richard J. In Defense of History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.

Evans, Richard Paul. The Last Promise. New York: Signet, 2002.

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Karras, Christy. "Evans Moves to Italy in Search of Respect, Time With Family."
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Karras, Christy. "Forbidden Fruit: LDS Author's Book Deemed Inappropriate." The Salt Lake Tribune, November 14, 2002, A1.

McCarthy, Joanne. "The Last Promise (Book)." Magill Book Reviews, no page
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Mullen, Holly Mullen. "Banned Novel at Deseret Book Could Open Floodgate: What
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Lewis, C.S. An Experiment in Criticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961.

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Paglia, Camille. Break, Blow, Burn. New York: Pantheon, 2005.

Richard Paul Evans.

Scharman, Brent S. "For Better, for Worse, For Always." Ensign, June 1991, 25.

"What Prophets and Apostles Teach about Chastity and Fidelity." Ensign, October 1998, 38.

Woodbury, Eugene. "A Promise Not Worth Keeping." Irreantum: Exploring Mormon Literature 5, no. 2 (2003): 75-79.

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