Terryl Givens's discussion of popular representations of Mormonism ("'Murder and Mystery Mormon Style': Violence and Mediation in American Popular Culture ) is a case in point, emphasizing the violence inherent in the acts of sociocultural and fictional mediation that have tried to contain the heretical challenge of Mormon theocracy. Mormonism has a complex cultural identity, as a religious group clearly outside the American mainstream and yet historically and ethnically American to the core. Nineteenth-century fictional representations of Mormonism tended to demonize the religion while at the same time deploring the violence of anti-Mormon bigotry; such representations mediated social violence by "orientalizing" Mormonism as culturally other and by contributing Mormon conversion to the mesmeric elimination of individual will. Givens finds in the works of two contemporary mystery writers, Robert Irvine and Cleo Jones, many of the same patterns of Mormon caricature, with the difference that the gradual assimilation of Mormons within the dominant culture has necessitated a compensatory demonization of "bourgeoisified" Mormonism as too much a part of the American mainstream. Through his historical overview if Mormon representations, Givens highlights the persistence of oppositional violence in our categories of otherness and difference.

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Copyright © 1995, SUNY Press. This chapter first appeared in Violence and Mediation in Contemporary Culture.

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