Sunday, July 31, 2005

Books Books Books

I just got three books in the mail yesterday and I am eager to crack them open and get into them.

The Conversion of the Imagination promises to be a good read, Richard Hays is one of the major players in NT intertextuality, and his book Echoes of Scripture is one of those books that transformed the way I approach the NT. While this book is a collection of old essays, most of which I have already read, Hays has supposedly edited and reworked them into a coherent whole. Hopefully he deals with intertextual theory a bit more in-depth, but regardless, I am sure I will be commenting more on this book down the road.

The next book is The Next Reformation a book that encourages evangelicals to embrace postmodernism rather than simply vilify it. This book is highly recommended from a friend, and I am looking forward to Raschke's take on Derrida and Company. To be honest, I enjoy reading Derrida, Barthes, Kristeva, and Foucault; even if I don't always understand them. Aside from that, the book has a really nice feel to it, so kudos goes out to the wonderful Brazos people.

The last book which will probably take a back seat to the previously mentioned books, is a collection of essays by theologians I really respect. Nicene Christianity, as the title suggests is a theology book devoted to the Nicene Creed. I don't read a lot of proper theology so it will be good. Again, this is another Brazos book.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton is a masteful literary critic and even though this is an old book it is still a great introduction to literary criticism. It is not that Eagleton has a great deal new to say to us today, the joy, however, is in how he says it. To get my blog started I will give you some samples of this fine work:

"The hallmark of the 'linguistic revolution' of the twentieth century, from Saussure and Wittgenstein to contemporary literary theory, is the recognition that meaning is not simply something 'expressed' or 'reflected' in language: it is actually produced by it. It is not as though we have meanings, or experiences, which we then proceed to cloak with words: we can only have the meanings and experiences in the first place because we have a language to have them in."

This is a very important philisophical starting point for any studies that purport to deal with texts. This of course has many ramifications for the notion of 'truth' and for the study of epistimology proper, but what I would like to tease out of this quote is the role of ideology in the interpretation of texts.

There is a notion that interpretation is like kenosis, you empty yourself of all your intrests and approach the text value free, and through painstaking study the meaning of the text comes out from hidding and reveals itself in all its magesty. But how does one go about this kenosis?

If ideologies constitute the ways in which what we say and believe connect to the powder-structures and power-relations of the society in which we live, then how can we ever hope to empty ourselves from them. Interests are part and parcel of who we are, or at least how we think. So is there such a thing as value free interpretation? Short answer no. Here is a story told by Clifford Gertz, that although the original context was interpretation, I think it works well for ideology too.

There is an Indian story--at least I heard it as an Indian story--about an Englishman who, having been told that the world rested on a platform which rested on the back of an elephant which rested in turn on the back of a turtle, asked ..., what did the turtle rest on? Another turtle. And that turtle? "Ah, Sahib, after that it is turtles all the way down.
It is ideology all the way down folks.

Friday, July 29, 2005


This might be the best story I have, the story of the just man who came to a wicked city. Let's call it Sodom. He came determined to save its inhabitants from sin and punishment. Night and day he walked the streets and markets, protesting against greed and theft, falsehood and indifference. In the beginning, people listened and smiled ironically. Then they stopped listening. He no longer even amused them. The killers went on killings the wise kept silent as if there were no just man in their midst. One day a child, moved by compassion for the unfortunate teacher, approached him with these words:

"Poor stranger, you shout, you scream--don't you see that it is hopeless?"
"Yes, I see," answered the just man.
"Then why do you go on?"
"I'll tell you why. In the beginning, my child, I thought I could change man. Today I know I cannot. But if I still shout today, if I still scream, louder and louder, it is to prevent them from ultimately changing me."

- Elie Wiesel