Retellings of the biblical Adam and Eve narrative proliferated in nineteenth-century literature; however, the retellings took a decidedly Gnostic turn, reversing the binary oppositions of good and evil, and taking a post-enlightenment view of knowledge. From the start, Mormonism has been a “Romantic” religion: the Adam and Eve narrative took center stage with Joseph Smith introducing three new versions of the narrative; like their literary cousins, these sacred texts took a radically Gnostic turn. Knowledge is a boon rather than a curse; the fall is fortunate rather than fatal; and Eve is a hero rather than a pariah. In this paper, I will begin to situate Joseph Smith’s retellings of the Adam and Eve narrative within nineteenth-century poetic production and look at issues of gender, theology, and American identity.
Boyd J. Petersen