|Born||Terryl Lynn Givens
April 27, 1957
|Alma mater||Brigham Young
(comparative literature, 1981)
University of North Carolina (Ph.D., comparative literature, 1988)
|Occupation||James A. Bostwick Professor of English and Religion , University of Richmond|
Terryl Lynn Givens (born 1957) is professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, where he holds the James A. Bostwick Chair in English. Givens teaches courses in 19th century studies and literary theory, and he focused his early research and publications there, but he is best known for his books and articles on Mormon history, culture, and theology.
His book By the Hand of Mormon was the first critique of the Book of Mormon and its relationship to Mormonism to be published by a major academic press (Oxford University Press). His chief contributions include an understanding of the importance of historical claims of the Book of Mormon and dialogic revelation to Mormon theology.
Terryl Givens was born in rural upstate New York on April 27, 1957, but spent his childhood in Arizona and then Virginia. He served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in São Paulo, Brazil. He received his bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Brigham Young University in 1981 and his PhD in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina in 1988. He accepted a position to teach English literature at the University of Richmond in the same year, and has lived near Richmond with his family since then.
Givens's early work focused on literary studies and specifically romanticism. His dissertation and early publications were on the classical theory of mimesis and its dissolution in the 19th century. He also published with Putnam a well-regarded children’s book, Dragon Scales and Willow Leaves.
Later work (Mormon history)
Givens published his first book - The Viper on the Hearth - in 1997 and with it shifted his research emphasis to the intersection of literary and religious studies. Using his background in literary criticism to survey anti-Mormon literature from the 19th century to the present, Givens explores the challenge anti-Mormons were presented with in seeking to justify persecutions of a religious sect in a supposedly religiously tolerant nation. His second book, By the Hand of Mormon, is seen as his most important contribution to Mormon studies to date because it is the first academic survey of the significance of the Book of Mormon to believer and skeptic alike to be published by a major academic press (Oxford University Press). In it, Givens argues that the Book of Mormon has been important primarily for its existence and extra-textual historical claims rather than for its contents. Givens also makes a case for what he calls “dialogic revelation” as a novel contribution of the Book of Mormon. In current projects, he seems to be moving in the direction of broader engagement with religious themes across time and the western religious and philosophical traditions.
In 2011 a third book by Givens, this time co-authored with Matthew J. Grow, Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism was published by Oxford University Press. This is a biography of Parley P. Pratt, one of the first 12 apostles of Mormonism.
General critical response to Givens work has been favorable from fellow scholars like Jan Shipps, Richard Bushman, and Harold Bloom. The New York Times referred to his work as “provocative” and Harper’s praised him for being “fair-minded and unbiased.” Some critics, however, have faulted him for what they see as an apologetic bent. Givens is a practicing Mormon who served as bishop in a local congregation for some years.
- The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0-19-510183-6
- By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-19-513818-4
- The Latter-day Saint Experience in America Greenwood Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-313-32750-6
- People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture Oxford University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-19-516711-5
- The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-536931-1
- When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought. Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-19-531390-1
- Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (with Matthew J. Grow) Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-19-537573-2
- "Prominent Author Fiona Givens To Be Keynote Speaker At The Sunstone Education Foundation’s Christ Conference December 29, 2012". Prweb.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
- Bobrick, Benson: The Gospel According to Joseph Smith, page 2. The New York Times, August 18, 2002. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9503E0D8163AF93BA2575BC0A9649C8B63
- Davenport, Guy: By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion (Subject of Review). Harpers, July 2002. http://www.harpers.org/subjects/ByTheHandOfMormonTheAmericanScriptureThatLaunchedANewWorldReligionBook/SubjectOf/Review
- Daniel Peterson (22 July 2010). "Daniel Peterson: Terryl Givens making his mark in Mormon writing". Mormon Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
- Professional web site
- Works by or about Terryl Givens in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Featured extensively in the PBS Frontline documentary The Mormons
- Biography at Joseph Smith Papers Project website (accessed May 4, 2012)