Professor Receives Elton Award, Publishes Research on Victorian ‘Mormon Moment’

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Dr. Scott A. Dransfield

Southern Virginia University Professor of English Scott A. Dransfield, whose article on the Victorian “Mormon Moment” was published in the most recent issue of the journal Religion and the Arts, today received the Michael and Kay Elton Lectureship for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship.

The Elton Award, established by Michael Elton, a member of the board of trustees at Southern Virginia, annually honors a member of the faculty who has demonstrated outstanding teaching and scholarship. As the recipient of the award, Dransfield will deliver a formal address in 2014. In addition, the award carries with it a $5,000 stipend.

Dransfield’s publication in Religion and the Arts, “Charles Dickens and the Victorian ‘Mormon Moment,’” is the latest of many articles Dransfield has written for academic journals such as Victorian Poetry, Dickens Studies Annual, and Prose Studies. He has focused his research on Victorian literature and culture, but he also has researched topics ranging from Shakespearean staging to intertextuality and translation in Homer and Yeats.

He said that he feels researching is important because it helps him stay engaged as a scholar and become a better teacher.

“Whether I teach what I’m researching or not, I feel researching helps me to interact more meaningfully with the material that I teach,” said Dransfield. “I do teach Victorian literature, and this project as well as other projects I’ve done in Victorian studies help me understand the cultural context for the literature we read. Even researching this narrow topic still contributes a lot of insight into teaching that material. It’s just the process of being engaged.”

Dransfield said that his interest in researching Mormonism in the Victorian era began while he was attending graduate school.

“Lots of Mormons know the famous passage from Dickens where he refers to Mormons as the pick and flower of England,” he said. “It’s been widely acknowledged that Dickens had a favorable impression of Mormons. What I wanted to know was why he thought that way and what kind of reasoning is behind this very favorable impression of Mormons.”

Dransfield said that he found that what Dickens liked about early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “was their domestic nature.”

“What he noticed was that these Mormons, who were largely working class individuals, seemed to embody the ideal working class domesticity — their orderliness, their industry,” Dransfield said. “For Dickens, that was a huge topic. Think about Dickens’ novels; you see a lot of corrupt families and ideal families. The Mormons seemed to have all of the ideal family qualities for Dickens.”

Dransfield is currently working on a paper titled “Of Muhammad and Mormons: Religious Tolerance and Difference in Carlyle, Dickens and the Victorian Popular Press” that he presented at an international Victorian studies conference in Venice this summer.

Dransfield has served on Southern Virginia’s faculty since 2001. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he currently serves as chair of the division of humanities and director of writing at Southern Virginia. He also serves as bishop of one of the wards in the Buena Vista Young Single Adult Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.