Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Again Intertextuality: what a tangled web we weave?

Interesting discussions on intertextuality are floating through the blogosphere, Pete Phillips started it off with a post on Esler's new book (here), then followed up with a post (here), then Alan Bandy gave us a brief introduction (here), discussing how intertextuality and allusion differ.

Alan in a response to Loren Rosson stated that he favored allusion primarily because it retained the notion of authorial intention. Pete on the other hand in true postmodern fashion chooses his theory depending upon the wind patterns out there in the Peaks. I happen to be somewhere in the middle between Alan and Pete. Mondays - Wednesdays I favor Genette, Riffaterre, and Bloom; Thursdays and Fridays are my Kristeva and Barthes days (because we all need Barthes days!), Saturday I give over to Hirsch (just kidding), and like Pete on Sunday it just doesn't matter!

The following is from a yet to be finished dissertation on Paul and intertextuality:

I see intertextuality as essentially a theory of reading that insists that a text (for the moment to be understood in the narrower sense as a work, a canon, or a unit of writing) can neither exist nor function as a closed unit. Perhaps this can be best illustrated if we look at a text as the two sides of the same coin; on the one side we have the writer and the other side the reader. On the first side the writer is a reader of texts (in broadest sense such as social institutions, cultural icons, and all literary texts) before she is a creator of texts. Therefore the work is inevitably filled with references, quotations, and influences of every kind. This reiteration of past or of contemporary texts can range from the most conscious and sophisticated elaboration of another's work,[1] a scholarly use of sources,[2] a quotation (with or without the use of quotation marks),[3] to the snatches of conversation typical of a certain social milieu at a certain historical moment.[4] On the other side of the coin a text is available only through some process of reading (or hearing); what is produced at the moment of reading is due to the cross-fertilization of the packaged textual material (say a book) with all the texts which the reader brings to it. For example a delicate allusion to a work unknown to the reader, which therefore goes unnoticed, will have no effect in that reading. On the other hand, the reader's experience of some practice or theory unknown to the author may lead to a fresh interpretation.[5] Both sides of intertextuality, texts entering via writers and texts entering via readers, are, nevertheless both emotionally and politically charged. Texts are not transferred in a socio-political, or emotional vacuum.[6]
The theory of intertextuality then is a theory of reading that takes into account intertexts (texts, in the broadest sense, found within a certain text, in the narrowest sense), not as sources per say, but rather as possible aids in the process of signification. This process of close reading is all done with an understanding of the ideological nature of texts; both through the influence of the writer and the reader. This is no doubt a simple but nevertheless I hope helpful introduction to theory of intertextuality.

The more time I spend studying intertextuality the less I rest on authorial intention as the main determinant of meaning. We have the author, the text, and the addressee(near and far); none of these should be the privileged retainer of meaning. Namely, because they are all woven and crafted by previous texts. The very interesting question for me becomes the interplay between these texts and how they signify.



[1] See Jorge Luis Borges's 'Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote', in which Menard writes with his own resources a new version of Don Quixote, which was rigorously and literally identical with Cervantes's text. Yet because of the two intervening centuries of history the work was invested not only with a new complexity and depth but also with an entirely different meaning.

[2] Of which a dissertation is a prime example.

[3] The New Testament's use of the Scripture's of Israel is often an example of the use of a quotation without any introductory formula, the ancient equivalent of quotation marks..

[4] Many of Charles Dickens's novels present us with a world crammed full of individual voices, sharing, competing, and clashing over different ways of speaking; yet the novels present no overall voice, no controlling and omnipotent narrator.

[5] John Frow, "Intertextuality and Ontology," in Intertextuality: Theories and Practices, ed. Michael Worton and Judith Still, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), 45-56,defines ten theses of intertextuality, which I think are helpful in summarizing the various concepts of intertextuality. By using the concept of intertextuality we understand that:

1) the text is self-contained but differential and historical;
2) texts are traces of otherness -- they are repetitions and transformations of other texts;
3) the absent texts constrain the text and are represented by/within it;
4) the representation may be implicit or explicit;
5) intertextual reference implies reference to the meanings stored in a genre;
6) the process of intertextuality in literature is governed by the structure of the literary system and the authority of the canon;
7) the text's relationship to discursive authority may not reflect authorial intention;
8) identifying an intertext is an interpretive act;
9) identifying the general genre or ideology of the source-text is more important than identifying the particular source; and
10) intertextuality is distinguished from source criticism by its stress on interpretation rather than mere influence or causality.

[6] Michael Worton and Judith Still, Intertextuality: Theories and Practices (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), 1-2.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Saturday Seven?

Highlights from the past week:

1. Ever want to go to Iran, but just not sure your spouse will let you spend your hard earned cash on an Indiana Jones Fantasy Camp? Never fear my friends Paul and Jen can show you all the sites and all from the comfort of your office chair. Paul is a Canadian (don't hold that against him) who is doing a Ph.D. in Military Terminology in the Hebrew Bible while, Jen (his Wife) is in the artsy side of the advertisement Business. Enjoy!

2. Myles (who I only know through reading his blog) has a beautiful narrative on the myth of scarcity, and the havoc it can cause in our lives.

3. On the outlandish statement and the idiocy of Pat Robertson (might have to register). On this note everyone should go out and rent Chavez: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. I for one don't think Chavez is a monster, and the people love him (well most of them). And I thought democracy was ol' Pat's savior anyway, What's up?

4. TheBlueRaja has some interesting questions concerning Just War theory.

5. Scott McKnight has some great advice for writing.

6. A new blog ThinkTank promises to be interesting.

7. And heck why not go out and buy me a camera!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Theology in the Vocative

"Thou shalt not kill" or "Thou shalt love thy neighbor" not only forbids the violence of murder: it also concerns all the slow and invisible killing committed in our desires and vices, in all the innocent cruelties of natural life, in our difference of "good conscience" to what is near, even in the haughty obstinancy of our objectifying and our thematizing....The entire Torah, in its minute descriptions, is concentrated in the "Thou shalt not kill" that the face of the other signifies, and awaits its proclamation therein.

- Emmanuel Levinas

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Prophet or Rock Star?

Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics--in physical laws--every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.
Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep shit. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.

Bono: ...[I]f only we could be a bit more like Him [Christ], the world would be transformed....When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my shit and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Monday, August 15, 2005

NPP (Part 1.5): 'Normative Judaism'

There have been sustained attacks against Sanders description of Second Temple Judaism as 'normative' Judaism, mostly by scholars studying Judaism. Jacob Neusner has led the attack (I use the word attack because much of Neusner's criticisms are couched in polemics) on the notion of an orthodox, normative, Judaism of the Second Temple period. Other prominent scholars offering the same sort of criticisms, with a little less polemic, include Martin Hengel (JTS 46), Phillip Alexander (JJS 37), and Jonathan Z. Smith.

One of the more interesting outcomes of these criticisms is how Sanders is accused (rightly) of describing Judaism as an outsider, and using essentially Christian categories to do so. Scholars of Judaism have never been tempted to describe the Second Temple period as a degenerative stage in the 'histories' of Judaism, for obvious reasons. This observation, along with the variegated nature of Second Temple Judaisms, led to a number of studies on what constitutes as a Judaism (see again Neusner and Smith). This of course has profound interest for those studying when Judaism and Christianity parted ways, so to speak. I am not trying to suggest that Sanders' 'New Perspective' is directly related to the discussion of the 'parting of the ways', but rather that the revolution that Sanders invoked made Christian scholars take notice of the rich complexities of Second Temple Judaism(s).

One of the recent attempts to illustrate the variegated nature of Second Temple Judaism(s) is book of collected essays entitled, Justification and Variegated Nomism. The editors did a magnificent job of rounding up the experts in a vast spectrum of fields, in order to show just how diverse the texts actually are. The insurmountable problem with this text is the puzzling way in which the various interpretations are co-opted by the editors 'post-script'. Certainly, Sanders is taken to task for offering a 'least common denominator' description of Palestinian Judaism, but others in the volume feel that 'Covenantal Nomism' works quite well as a short hand description, and wouldn't dispense with it wholesale. One wonders why in the editor's concluding section, such an unequivocally one-sided reading of the texts is offered, as if scholarship can now move beyond the Sanders revolution.

The positive and negative of these developments is that Pauline scholarship is no longer in a position to read the Jewish religion of the first century as a simple foil to Christianity, but likewise Pauline scholars can no longer assume that the backdrop of Pauline Christianity is always everywhere that of Covenantal Nomism. There is no escaping the Sanders revolution; it just means the task for reconstructing the back drop of Pauline Christianity just got substantially harder.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

You Are My Witnesses

One of the things on our 'to do list' while in D.C. was to visit the Holocaust Museum. When I was an undergrad at the University of Nebraska I took an independent research course on the Holocaust and the effects of memorials have on memory, and the Museum in D.C. played a prominent role in that research. I read many wonderful books relating to memory and memorials, but never thought it would play into my future studies.

One of the things I am now interested in, is the use of texts within other texts, and what happens to those texts when they are reused in new contexts. In fact metalepsis is a term used to denote the intertextual use of one word, or trope, in a text to denote the entire context of a previous text. An example of this can be found inside the Holocaust Museum on the west wall where it reads:

You Are My Witnesses Isaiah 43.10

Hemmed in by the shadows of what appear to be prison bars. The metal and brick architecture reproduce the feeling of oppression and fear of the death camps. This is a text that obviously signifies on many different levels.

Firstly, it is meant to be an imperative to the visitors of the Holocaust museum. Their journey through the monument initiates them into the web of witnesses, and as such the onus is on them to witness to the world what they have seen, which implies that as witnesses they will never allow such atrocities to happen again.

Secondly, the context of Isaiah 43 speaks about the motifs of exile, restoration, exodus, and the servant. It is significant that this is a passage of extreme hope; it is a passage that speaks to those who are in exile, those who have every reason to be hopeless. But it speaks of hope in a profoundly new way, for this passage speaks of the occasion where YHWH has lost the last battle, the occasion where the Babylonian gods have defeated YHWH and proved themselves to be the more powerful gods. The proof of YHWH's loss is that his people have been taken captive, and are exiled. Israel's captivity is in essence a witness to the defeat of YHWH. But in this passage the normal paradigm of Divine Warfare has been turned on its ear, for it is in this text where YHWH declares Israel to be his witness and his servant. YHWH can declare this because he has done something that no other tribal god would dare do; defeat his own people. This text tells us that YHWH has determined to deliver his own people into exile. Only the incomparable god could do such an unprecedented thing, and that is what Israel is to witnesses to the nations, that YHWH is indeed the incomparable god. And as the incomparable god YHWH gives his people a word of hope amid the darkness: that a new exodus is coming one even better than the first, that the wilderness of flames will be transformed into an idyllic paradise, and that YHWH will no longer look at the sins of his servant but blot out all her transgressions.

Thirdly, when Isaiah 43 is read in light of the Holocaust, something in which I don't feel qualified to do, it signifies in a different manner. The text resonates of hope, but one now is in a position to question such hope. The text signifies while at the same time resists any signification.

Metalepsis is the term that names how the second reading rears its head in the first, and the second and the first in the third. It is a term that speaks of intertextuality, that no text is an island unto itself, but always refers to other texts. Isaiah 43.10 as a trope elicits the whole context of Isaiah 40-55, not to mention all of 43, and transforms the source text as well as the final text. So what does a text that calls Israel to be YHWH's witness to the nations have to do with the sort of witnesses the architects of the Holocaust museum call us to be?

Friday, August 05, 2005

The New Perspective on Paul (Part 1)

What I take to be the 'consensus', in NT circles, is the notion that Judaism of the first century was not the ugly step sister of Christianity. This is developed in a number of ways, but essentially Sanders looked at the Second Temple literature of the first century, and determined that Second Temple Judaism was no more legalistic than the Christianity in which Paul proclaimed (which is to say it is not a religion based on the notion of legalism, not that there were no legalists within the religion). There have been corrections to Sanders thought since 1976 (one wonders when the word new will cease to signify?). The most important and often most overlooked is that there was no monolithic, normative, orthodox Judaism of the Second Temple period; so we should use the nomenclature that corresponds to this (Judaism(s) is just such an attempt to clarify the historical situation). There has been an attempt to highlight this fact as if it destroys the NPP, where in reality, it neither adds nor subtracts to the NPP, it just rectifies a methodological mistake made by Sanders. So the NPP really started with a new perspective on Second Temple Judaism(s)(at least from the Christian scholars perspective). It was with this new insight that commentators on Paul started to reconstruct and correct this defect by asking the question:

If Paul was not deriding the Judaic people for being legalists, then what was Paul on about?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Off To Capital Hill

Off to the capital for a short holiday. Looking forward to getting together with family to celebrate my Grandma's 80th birthday.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Who said this?

I came across this quote and was bemused as to who uttered these words.

"Modern men, obtuse to all Christian nomenclature, no longer feel the gruesome superlative that struck a classical taste in the paradoxical formula 'god on the cross.' Never yet and nowhere has there been an equal boldness in inversion: it promised a revaluation of the values of antiquity."

So who said it?