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Archive for the ‘Hermeneutics’ Category

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Fair is fair

Having recently complained at length about the absolute lack of clarity in an article in Mark and Method edited by Anderson and Moore, it is only fair that coming upon an article that is exceptional I should likewise run to the blog to talk about it. Directly following the aforementioned article on Deconstruction is an article on Feminist Criticism. I will freely admit that my encounters with Feminist theology in the past have left an unsavory taste in my mouth, and frankly I was expecting to feel guilty and chastised through the whole reading of the text. (I am in fact an egalitarian, so I can’t read a scathing rebuke of interpretive patriarchy without feeling at least a tinge of guilt for my former complementary ways.)

What I discovered in Anderson’s article on Feminist Criticism was a well-structured easy-to-follow introduction to both the driving forces and approaches of Feminist Criticism. Anderson is unbelievably thorough for the amount of space she is given, and there is a notable lack of anger or bitterness. Instead, there is the polite and measured “this is how it has been and this is how it should be.” Make no mistake, she pulls no punches, but she makes her points without denigration or uncharitable language.

I found myself challenged and drawn by the alternate reading of the story of John’s beheading. The image provided by that telling of the story is of Herod’s young daughter dancing an innocent dance and Herod responding not out of lasciviousness but out of genuine parental love. It is artfully juxtaposed with male images of the daughter in paint and word. She is portrayed as reveling in the gore dripping from John’s head and as having an unrequited love for John which culminates in the final possession of his lips as they reside on her platter. Anderson’s probing of what this says about male interpreters and readers is gentle but firm, and now I ask myself, “What was it about that dance?” I highly recommend the article which can be read, as mentioned earlier, in  Mark and Method, which I must say with the one exception has been quite stellar.

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I have a confession to make. I can’t read  a great deal of art/literary criticism. It gives me a headache, and with every terrible pun  or convoluted phrase I grow closer to self-harm. The worst of it seems to come from the whole a/theology movement. I recall the sinking dread I encountered every time I picked up the hellish About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture by Mark C. Taylor. The book, once you slog through its complete unreadability, actually has some interesting ideas, but they are largely undermined by Taylor’s self-congratulatory, pedantic writing.

I have a visceral reaction to art/literary critics who think they are clever (whether they really are or not). So, in reading Mark and Method edited by Janice Capel Anderson and Stephen D. Moore for a class, I came to the chapter on Deconstruction by Moore with trepidation. I admit, when he began to talk about Derrida I started to die a little inside, but the real eye-bleeding started when I happened upon this quote:

Mark’s Jesus can therefore be read on the model of the written mark (and what is Jesus in Mark but a series of written marks, a marked man?). But Jesus’ status in Mark prefigures Mark’s own status. Mark’s Jesus is a “writer,” himself inscribed in a text, but so inscribed as to prefigure the fate of that text. Mark’s own destiny as a writing is foreshadowed in the way it writes up the story of Jesus. Mark is gradually folding back on itself as we read it. Not only is it a writing about Jesus but also it is a writing about writing. In addition, it is a writing about reading, a writing, which, as it retells the story of Jesus, also foretells the history of (mis)reading that the story will generate. (p. 101)

Maybe I’m just stupid, but what in the hell does that even mean? The puns have a quality that I can only describe as cloying, and the underlying point, which I presume he is trying to make, is completely beyond me. Interpretation is always a slippery endeavor be it Lord of the Rings or the Gospel of Mark, but I’d hope that a book that attempts to demonstrate critical approaches would strive for a bit more clarity.

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