Thursday, February 28, 2008
  Gender in the classroom

Teaching Ruth is always interesting. Not having taught the book for several years, I had forgotten just how revealing watching a class study this little book could be. The class at CTS reminded me. I have now taught Ruth in three very different cultural contexts, Congo, NZ and now Sri Lanka.

In each case it served, alongside Jonah, as an example to illustrate various elements of biblical narrative technique. In each case, for the teacher, watching the male and female students reading Ruth was illuminating. I'd need to teach Ruth with other students, or learn a lot more about Sri Lankan cultures before I can draw any conclusions from this last experience. But in both NZ and Africa this book has served to provoke strikingly different responses from male and female students, and to reveal the extent to which men in those two settings do not "understand" the issues that concern women.

More than any other topics I teach (with the possible exception of some sessions deliberately focused on gender issues) Ruth provokes responses from both men and women that their classmates of the other gender find either incomprehensible or frustrating. Teaching Ruth is a good way to remind oneself, of the extent to which one's culture still has significant issues to address of equality and justice between men and women in the realm of marriage and home. Ever culture does, and probably always will, given the interplay of social expectations with individual or familial understandings that such domestic contexts produce, however well or badly the issues have been "resolved" in the public sphere!

PS for other reflections on teaching at CTS and later (soon) in another place see this blog.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008
  Transit, and travel diaries
Singapore airport was already my favourite, and the only airport where I am happy to spend a few hours! It has confirmed this impression this time. As well as writing blog posts I've got up to date again with my email, including a note to say that Kipling's American Notes has now gone live on Librivox. I wonder of Barak Obama's progress in the US pre-elections would make Kipling rethink his best-known quote from the book? "It is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and the home of the brave." I also wonder what today's Americans make of his take on their ancestors - do let me know, whether you read a print edition, read the Guttenberg edition, or listen to my Librivox edition.

PS, the weather is as dull as it looks here, so we did not much miss the chance to see a bit more of the city this time (which was ruled out since we arrived in the middle of the night).

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Saturday, February 02, 2008
  The evolutionary book meme
It was Claude who tagged me with the now improved Book Meme

and it was Duane who first (that I noticed) noticed how the meme has changed since Feb 2005 when it first did the rounds in "our circles" at least. I can see and appreciate how adding the requirement to tag five others with the infection is evolutionarily advantageous, but can see no usefulness or adaptive advantage to the silly requirement to count five sentences and then quote some more. So I will attempt to dilute the less desirable new trait, and offedr this semi-modified "book meme":
Grab the nearest book.
  1. Open the book to page 123.
  2. Find the fifth sentence.
  3. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  4. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.
  5. Tag five others with the infection.
Back then I had a library book, I must have been blogging quietly in bed before the day started:
Our motto: 'We collect strings'.
Still strikes me as a great sentence, but (since I never finished the book - but got bored and dropped it) I still don't understand who or what had the motto concerned! The book was Paul Di Filippo Ribofunk if anybody read beyond p.123, do tell me what it was all about ;-)

Today, with the busyness of preparing to depart for more interesting places, I have work around me, my NRSV Bible is marginally closer than either the PhD or Bar-Efrat's classic Narrative Art in the Bible, so this year's sentence is:
The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.
Which, at least without context seems more than a little injust! However, this book is (I've just noticed with a sigh of relief.) interesting in that it also has a page 123 in the appendix:
When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak, and went on with their teaching.

Which, is less misogynist and still interesting, and if I open the book the "right" way as a Hebraist should is also correct... Actually this edition has the "Apocrypha", which also has a page 123, so you all get a bonus:
They said: Here we send you money; so buy with the money burnt offerings and sin offerings and incense, and offer them on the altar of the Lord our God; and pray for the life of kingNebuchadnezzer of Babylon and for the life of his son Belshazzar, so that their days on earth may be like the days of heaven.
Which, is an appaulingly long sentence! And comes in the middle of the page, so the others are as bad ;) so I have well and truly served mine!

I nominate: Michael Pahl, Judy Redman (who this time I hope I have spelled correctly first time, and from memory), the eponymous Lingamish, Suzanne, and Philip Sumpter to share our infection and the joy of discovery!

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  Thank you Cory Doctorow
is one of those cool suave webby names I have always wanted to mention in a post, I have also been very busy clearing stuff I might not need from my hard-drive so that (a) I can defrag it before we go away and (b) so that there is more than 10GB free to store all the video and photos we expect to take. I was stuck at 24.7GB free (about 3x what I started with, so no mean feat) when I read this post: "HOWTO Get a load of hard-disk space back" by Cory D on BoingBoing. Just go File | Compact Folders in Thunderbird, and Presto! I now have 27.5GB free and extra 2-3GB in a couple of minutes. And even better according to commenter Frumious

There is a setting to compact space automatically.

Look under prefs->advanced->network & disk space

Then click the 'compact folders when it will save over _____ KB' checkbox.

Adjust the numerical value as desired.
The brilliance just got better, I may not have to remember to "compress" ever again.

By the way, I am trying out BlipTV as a place to store the videos, I have uploaded some trials to The World of the Old Testament, of course the interviews with theology students and teachers in Sri Lanka will go on Wordpress, who have just upped the free storage to 3GB, what good timing!

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Friday, February 01, 2008
  Remediation, aura and technologies of (biblical) authority
On IBSWM I have also worked enough on some of my media and Bible ideas to propose a paper for the SBL Annual Meeting (to the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media session) which runs like this:

Remediation, aura and technologies of (biblical) authority

The notion that the Bible has authority has been very significant in statements of faith and constitutions of many churches and Christian movements. Yet understandings of what textual authority might mean are inevitably different when the text is expressed in different media. Concepts of textual authority that have dominated understanding of such church documents have been drawn almost exclusively from print-dominated cultures. Yet, in addition to a historical progression from oral to written, from scroll to codex (at least in Christian circles), and from manuscript to print, the biblical text has always been variously mediated. Oral and written mediations of the text existed alongside each other since the precanonical phase. The biblical manuscript tradition remediated (Bolter's term) the text in many ways, adding spaces between the words, adding commentary around the text, illumination and other "decorations".

Contemporary remediation of the Bible is even more varied and extensive. In print medium a plethora of consumer Bibles each mediates the text in distinct ways, as each also imitates earlier mediations of the authoritative text. From early renderings of the Bible in audio tape and video film, more recently digital delivery and production of such non-written media has enabled an explosion of non-written biblical "texts".

This paper examines the "technologies of authority" (the term used in different fields by Akkermans and Schwartz, Katznelson and Zolberg, Salmón Muñiz, and Tatlock) that different mediations of the biblical text utilise. It will also explore how the concept of "aura" (Benjamin) throws light of discussion of biblical authority in an electronically dominated media culture. It then attempts to generate a framework for understanding how notions of the (biblical) text as authority interact with changes of medium.

Akkermans, Peter M. M. G., and Glenn M. Schwartz. The Archaeology of Syria: From Complex Hunter-Gatherers to Early Urban. Cambridge UniversityPress, 2003.

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. The MIT Press, 2000.

Katznelson, Ira, and Aristide R. Zolberg. Working-Class Formation: Nineteenth-Century Patterns in Western Europe And. Princeton UniversityPress, 1986.

Salmón Muñiz, Fernando. “Technologies of Authority in the Medical Classroom in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries.” Http://

Tatlock, Lynne . “Authority, Prestige, and Value: Professionalization in the Musicians' Novels of Wolfgang Caspar Printz and Johann Kuhnau .” In The Construction of Textual Authority in German Literature of the Medieval and Early Modern Periods . Edited by James F. Poag and Claire Baldwin. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2001.

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  Summa Studia Biblica Blogia
Kevin at biblicalia has posted Biblical Studies Carnival XXVI it is both compendious, and scholarly (with a touch of light relief). It's length makes me tired, and relieved that I got my turn out of the way in 2007 ;)

Well done Kevin, and if anyone wants a good thorough introduction to the weird world of biblical scholars who blog, that's the place to go to discover: who "talks" to whom, and why paragogic nuns matter, and other vital tourist information for your visit to Biblio-blogaria or possibly Biblico-blogaria depending on the denominational affiliation of your interlocutor.

  Narrative Speed
On IBSWM I have also completed, at least in penultimate draft, a short entry on Narrative Speed, also for my online Introduction to Biblical Narrative.

On Monday we head off for Sri Lanka, so if you want to hear from me over the next couple of months please subscribe (by RSS or email) to the blog that will have writing, photos (and we hope video interviews with interesting people) relating to this travel and teaching Old Testament in South Asia including a refugee camp. (If you have a blog yourself please link to it, so that people find it before we return ;)

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