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  • 2 read more An Insider’s Pearl Diver

    An Insider’s Pearl Diver

    by Julia Spicher Kasdorf

    While Janzen offers us an ars moriendi, Julia Spicher Kasdorf finds an ars poetica for Mennonite writers in her analysis of Sidney King’s prize-winning film, The Pearl Diver. She finds that the film raises the question of the relationship between suffering and the artist-writer’s responsibility to individuals and the community in representing suffering for a public audience. It uses the Dirk Willems story from Martyrs Mirror to explore the central ambiguity of “whether sacrifice and separation can ultimately undo the Christian imperative to love and choose life.”

  • 2 read more Me and the Martyrs

    Me and the Martyrs

    by Kirsten Beachy

    Kirsten Beachy is one Mennonite of a younger generation who has read Martyrs Mirror. She has not only read it but integrated its images, stories and lessons into her and her husband’s genealogies and her liberal arts education. She reflects the ambiguities and ironies that many Mennonites find in thinking about the book, and writes movingly and thoughtfully about its lasting impact on her.

  • 3 read more Amish Joking

    Amish Joking

    by Ervin Beck

    The Amish jokes presented here by Ervin Beck represent folklore that has been passed on by oral tradition, that is, from person to person in informal settings, usually in small groups, by word of mouth. Most of these jokes had not been written down until they were transcribed from tape recordings for this essay. Some of the jokes can be documented as having been in circulation for hundreds of years. Before they were applied to Amish people, some of the items have circulated in other groups (who tell them about non-Amish ethnic groups) or as general moron jokes . The meanings of the jokes can be best understood in the context of their actual oral telling in intimate groups; but here they are analyzed in terms of the larger Mennonite culture that tends to perpetuate—and enjoy—such stereotyping of a rival cultural group. The jokes illustrate folklorists’ claims that the predominant folk narrative forms circulating in contemporary American culture are short joking stories and legends, i.e., stories believed to be true.

  • 2 read more “Hurry Back!”

    “Hurry Back!”

    by Vi Dutcher

    Letter-writing, and specifically the circle letter, as presented in the essay by Vi Dutcher, qualifies as folk expression, even though it is not an oral genre. But it is customary in that it is a written genre and custom that has been passed on over many years, and it is learned informally from the example of other members of the community—not from formal instruction in a classroom or office, as is the case with most formal composition today. Circle letters are practiced in North America mainly by women, of various social levels and ethnicities, but Vi analyzes the circle letter's culturally specific practice and meaning in an Old Order Amish community.

  • 0 read more Three Poems

    Three Poems

    by Shari Miller Wagner

    Shari Miller Wagner’s poems illustrate how the sphere of folk culture interacts with academic culture, where poetry-writing, with its origins in academic classrooms, is highly valued. Shari’s forms are sophisticated, from an academic point of view, but her subject is Mennonite and Amish folk culture. Four-part unaccompanied hymn-singing, home cooking, family legends and recreation, rural chores: all are re-created--and perhaps preserved--by being given artistic shape for a new, more cosmopolitan audience. The folk poets among us—such as cowboy poets and street rappers—do the opposite when they include academic and popular/mass culture subject matter in their folk poetry forms. Shari’s many other poems on interesting places in Indiana and on quirky Hoosiers illustrate her longstanding personal interest in folk culture wherever it is found.

  • 0 read more Daddy’s Girl

    Daddy’s Girl

    by Shirley H. Showalter

    Showalter's narrative of her early teenage encounter with her father amid tobacco culture among Lancaster County Mennonites is densely personal, cultural and literary.

  • 4 read more Grist for the Mill

    Grist for the Mill

    by Ann Hostetler

    Ann Hostetler reviews a recently published book of poems by Helen Alderfer. We tend to assume that lyric poems reflect something of the author's life and feelings, but in this book the poems even become a kind of lifetime memoir in verse, scanning the author's life from childhood to advanced age.

  • 0 read more Menno Pause Revisited

    Menno Pause Revisited

    by J. Daniel Hess

    In this memoir, derived from personal experience,Hess gives a personal—yet restrained and reportorial—account of a crisis at Goshen College that has become legendary among students.

  • 1 read more Silence, Memory and Imagination as Story

    Silence, Memory and Imagination as Story

    by Connie T. Braun

    In her essay, "Silence, Memory and Imagination as Story: Canadian Mennonite Life Writing," Connie T. Braun articulates Paul Ricoeur's theory regarding memory and narrative and applies it to the historical Mennonite experience found in two masterworks of recent Mennonite fiction, Rudy Wiebe's Sweeter Than All the World and Sandra Birdsell's Russlaender (published in the U.S. as Katya).

  • 1 read more Three Poems

    Three Poems

    by Robert Martens

    Robert Martens transforms into lyric poetry his childhood experience of growing up in the Mennonite community in British Columbia's Fraser Valley. The three poems appearing here move through depictions of his childhood village, Sunday School pranks, and adult experience in the city.