BCC Press is Baaaack—and Here is Corianton

After a brief summer hiatus, BCC Press is back with our ELEVENTH book release of 2022. And boy, are we excited.

The Corianton Saga, edited by the inimitable Ardis E. Parshall, represents years of careful archival work, transcribing, and editing a series of documents that, taken together, tell one of the wierdest and most wonderful stories in the Mormon Universe.

The saga began in 1889, during the height of the Home Literature Movement in Mormon Utah. No less than B.H. Roberts, recently called to the First Council of the Seventy, set the ball in motion by serializing a 17,000-word novella called Corianton over five issues of the Contributor, for which he served as editor.

In Corianton, Roberts tells the story of Alma the Younger’s son, Coriantion, who consorted with a harlot (Alma 39:1-4), returned to the Church, and then set out with Hagoth on a journey to unknown parts (Alma 63:10). In Roberts’ hands, Corianton’s journey becomes the story of a righteous young man who is framed by Zoramites in order to destroy the Church. In 1902, Roberts published a slightly revised version of the story as a stand-alone book called Corianton, a Nephite Story.

Before Corianton came out in a single volume, however, another remarkable writer wove a much longer story out of many of the same events. Julia A. MacDonald’s novella A Ship of Hagoth clocked in at 40,000 words, was published over 11 issues of the Young Woman’s Journal.

Macdonald herself was one of the most fascinating figures of early Mormon letters—the sister of one apostle (Anthony Ivins) and the cousin of another (Heber J. Grant), MacDonald studied to be an obstetrician and completed medical school at the University of Michigan, but suffered a heart attack in 1891, shortly before graduation. She began writing fiction before her heart attack, and continued to do so until her death in 1900. A Ship of Hagoth was her longest and best-known work.

The saga continued when a writer with the wonderful name of Orestes Utah Bean took both Roberts and MacDonald’s novellas and worked them into a stage play that toured the country in 1902 as Corianton: An Aztec Romance. It did not do very well. But nobody with a name like Orestes Utah Bean can be easily discouraged, and, after a major rewrite, An Aztec Romance went to Broadway in 1912. It also did not do very well.

But Bean kept trying and, in 1931, teamed up with Lester and Byron Parks to produce the deliciously titled Corianton: A Story of Unholy Love, an early talking picture and perhaps the first work of commercial Mormon film.

This film (also not a huge box office hit) might have been the end of the Corianton phenomenon, had not Bean’s widow Zoan Bean, who tried to keep her husband’s great idea alive in the form of a television script, Out of the Dust. Out of the Dust was never published, performed, or produced, and it appears in print for the first time in our volume. The other four entries—Roberts’ 1902 version of Corianton: A Nephite Story, MacDonald’s A Ship of Hagoth, and both versions of Bean’s stage play—have all been out of print for more than a century.

We also want to let you know that the first two volumes in our Classics in Mormon Literature series—Maurine Whipple’s A Craving for Beauty and the first volume of Josephine Spencer, Her Collected Works, have been resized as 6×9 editions to correspond to The Corianton Saga (What ever got into us with those 7.5×9.25 editions—we will never know). For the month of September, we will be selling these books a the lowest price Amazon will allow (which, unfortunately, is not that low because they are big books). But we will also be selling the Kindle versions of all three works for $4.99 each, which is basically free.

Comments

  1. I’m so excited for this publication. Thank you!

  2. Well, It’s Ardis, so I will buy it. everything she does is magic.

  3. This is pretty neat. Am I ok to name my next son Corianton now?

  4. Interesting fact: When Orestes Utah Bean took his stage play to broadway his more famous brother Willard Washington Bean was his partner in the venture. You might know Willard as the Boxer in TC Christiansen’s film “The Fighting Preacher”.

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