Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Derrida at SBL

Semester has begun again at uni. Although I'm technically not a student at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhems-Universität Bonn, I still visit their seminars to:

  1. improve my German;

  2. get to know an entirely different theological culture which has deeply influenced biblical academia since the 19th century (I mean, of course, the culture of 'higher criticism'). Last year I hung out with the Protestants (the faculties are denominationally ordered here, unlike in England, where we're all thrown into the same class room), this year I'm going to hang out with Catholics, who look far more interesting (L. Hossfeld runs the OT department. He's worked closely with Zenger on the Psalms and is interested in synchronic approaches to the Bible).

The two seminars I've decided to visit are "Die Psalmen im Neuen Testament" ("The Psalms in the New Testament") and "Das Alte Testament und seine Transparenz auf Christus hin" ("The Old Testament and its Transparency to Christ"). The second looks especially interesting, given the intellectual climate found in Bonn and the nature of my doctorate, which has something to do with reading the Old Testament as the Word of God.

So much for personal details. Iyov has started a thread on Bible translation and has posted an interesting link to a tribute to Derrida, found on the SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) website. It's worth a read if you think postmodernism is about believing what you want to believe. Here's an interesting quote from the article:

"Derrida, who never once associated himself with the much-abused term "postmodern," tended to regard newness with suspicion. Newness is too prone to make a straw man of "old"-ness, and to demolish old world orders to make new ones (often with catastrophic results). Commenting on Jesus's saying about new wineskins and new cloth (Matt. 9.14-17; Mk 2.18-22; Lk 5.33-39), he recommended a more humble, less apocalyptic form of "newness." Newness should be aware that it is always repatching and reweaving old cloth. "

Attached at the end of the article is a fascinating audio recording (mp3) of a public dialogue with Derrida at 2002 SBL Annual Meeting: "On Religion: An Interview With Jacques Derrida". He's asked questions by Yvonne Sherwood, John D. Caputo, and Kevin Hart, on topics to do with prayer, the relationship of deconstruction to Christianity and, my favorite, his interpretation of two midrashim found in Genesis Rabba.

Tomorrow I'll continue the "in accordance with scripture" sub-thread.


Timothy Goering said...

Thanks so much for the link!
I'm really looking forward to hearing the Derrida mp3.

Phil Sumpter said...

I find Derrida hard work, but I also sense that he's touching on something profound that needs to be listened to. I find actually listening to authors speak goes a long way to helping me grasp their approach in their writings. You get a glimpse of their personality. Which is especially interesting considering that the biblical authors hid their identity, submitting it to a 'word' they felt was greater then they. Hmmmm.

By the way, why are all the great 'deconstructers' Jewish (Freud, Marx)?

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Thanks for this link, Phil. I am always interested in good mp3 recordings of the great thinkers. I've listened to Derrida and to the Redeemer sermon you mentioned earlier. I got a lot out of both.

I wonder whether you have the mp3 of Brueggemann speaking at the Emergent Village conference a few years back? I would dearly love to get a copy of it, but it isn't available on the Emergent Village site anymore.

Phil Sumpter said...

I'm glad you also got something out of them. I love recordings as they give my eyes a break, and I can listen to them while walking along the Rhein. The whole sermon series on the Redeemer website is awesome. I was originally drawn to them as the bulk of their sermons are based on Isaiah, which is unusual. They guy is really talented.

I've not heard Brueggemann preach yet, but I would love to. I'm always fascinated with how theologians put their theory into practice, the pulpit being one location for doing that. If you find the link then let me know (along with anyother of the greats)!

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for this. I know you posted it days ago, but your SBL link to Derrida got me here (if late). Thanks for your comment on my post "on difficulty" some days back. Here's an interesting link: Steiner's "On Difficulty" got me understanding Derrida much more! And since you're linking to Derrida and, rightly, praising him, can I add more (all fr James K. A. Smith)?

In Memoriam: Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) [in Christianity Today]

a compilation of obits

Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture)

(PS did you see how both John Hobbins and Stefan, the guy with the voice, lumps us together?)

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks J.K.Gayle,

those links are great! I knew there was an obituary by Smith out there, I just hadn't found the time to actually search for it. I will endeavour to read through what you've linked when the time is right (I'm attempting the art of doctoral self-discipline: only read what is directly relevant to your project so that you can get you doctorte done in three years!).

I went through a postmodern phase ... I need to take another look at it. In one of my other posts on this subject, in the comments section, you can see where I have become more critical of J. K.A. Smith, at least where he branches out into theology. I think a distinction needs to be made between postmodern critiques of how humans know, and theology suggestions/prescriptions as to what the nature of truth actually is.

Nevertheless, I own him far more than I can criticise him for!

Phil Sumpter said...

Oh, and concerning our common grouping - we were classified as students, weren't we? I think that's about right :)

J. K. Gayle said...

Students, yes. Need for discipline to do the dissertation, absolutely.

While we're still distracted by pomo, thanks for the link and the critique of JKA Smith as neglecting kerygma for processing alethiology. I think any good deconstructionist has to laugh at all such critiques, nothing against you or the validity of yours--rather, such critiques are just deconstruction all over again. Was it Walter Benjamin who writes Benjamin on Benjamin? Anyway, Derrida seems to say with some finality: there's no final word.

You say you went through (past tense terminal) a postmodern phase. Me too, I guess. My turn is to (French) feminism, which insists on grounding or founding (not essentializing) in/from/out/of the (woman's) body. OK: what I mean by that, is good feminism uses pomo and deconstruction when it has to. But: good feminism never ever gets past the incarnated word, a very very personal word indeed. Make sense? Sorry, I have to use regular words, and Ph.D.-ishness too.

Thanks again for the conversation. ("We read to know we're not alone" - C. S. Lewis, as portrayed in "The Shadowlands")

Phil Sumpter said...

Your use of feminsim sounds interesting. Feel free to tell me when I'm being too patriarchal in my comments!

I first came across feminism while doing my BA in cultural anthropology. My professors claimed that the feminsists had be doing what the postmodernists were trying to do all along. They even claimed that postmodern is still guilty of patriarchy! Thought that may well just be an inner anthropological debate, rather than a philosophical one.