If literature were politics, writer Eugene England could be the Mormon Eugene McCarthy.
Pensive, provocative, progressive, famous for his challenging opinions and turns of phrase, England is known to always take the long view, to look for visionary perspective.Now, in special ceremonies at Utah Valley State College, he's about to become known for something else.
On Wednesday, Feb. 2, England will be officially introduced as the school's first Writer in Residence.
There will be a program for students from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in room 213 of the student center. The public is invited to attend a second program there from 7-8:30 p.m. Leslie Norris, Writer in Residence at Brigham Young University, will introduce England and read poetry. England will read as well.
Refreshments will be served, books will be signed and England -- no doubt -- will share his vision of the post.
"I've been so involved working with our study-abroad program and the Center for the Study of Mormon Culture, that I haven't been able to have writing groups, give readings and do the normal things that a writer in residence does," England says. "I hope this event will kick that off."
Along with name recognition, England brings impressive credentials to his task: a Ph.D. from Stanford, dean of St. Olaf's Lutheran College in Minnesota, along with 21 years in the English Department at BYU. Besides his own work, he has published several anthologies, including the LDS poetry collection, "Harvest," and the anthology of LDS fiction, "Bright
Angels and Familiars."
His own books include the essay collections, "Dialogues with Myself," "The Quality of Mercy" and perhaps his best-known work, "Why the Church Is as True as the Gospel," recently re-published by Tabernacle Books.
He has also done scholarly work on Leslie Norris, Lowell Bennion and many other regional writers.
"The thing I love about UVSC is they're genuinely interested in LDS literature," he says. "The president is not a Mormon, yet he has encouraged me to be a resource. And many non-LDS faculty members have come to me looking for ways to connect with their LDS students."
"I think UVSC is in a unique position," England said. "It could be a national center for Mormon studies. I think the Center for the Study of Mormon Culture is an example."
The goal, says England, is not to create rivalries or offer alternatives, but to simply amplify and expand the studies of a culture that is fast becoming one of the most influential and interesting in the nation.
"For me, the situation is ideal," he says. "The student body is 95 percent Mormon, and the administration cares about them."
Now it's on to those writing groups, readings and the other "normal" things that schools ask of their challenging, visionary residential writers.