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Thought for the Day

September 11, 2011

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable palpitating, and even gruesome, ay make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.

(J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 61)

Biblical Studies Carnival: Revenge of the Sith

September 1, 2011

James McGrath has posted the latest Biblical Studies Carnival entitled: Biblical Studies Carnival Episode III: The Final Frontier as the Carnival Strikes Back. As can be inferred by the title, the roundup of the month has a decidedly sci-fi theme.

I wonder if this trend will continue as we head towards the Society of Biblical Literature meeting at Starfleet Academy in San Francisco this fall. Will the end result be cosplay at the national conference?

Or perhaps that’s already the case, and we all just dress like the eleventh Doctor.

Costly Snark in Reviews

August 7, 2011

Francis Wheen has a piece in the Financial Times entitled “The Hunting of the Snark,” which comments on the recent UK court decision awarding writer Sarah Thornton £65,000 damages over a particularly nasty review by Lynn Barber.

“Sarah Thornton”, Barber wrote in the offending article, “is a decorative Canadian with a BA in art history and a PhD in sociology and a seemingly limitless capacity to write pompous nonsense.” So far so good: this is what libel lawyers call “mere vulgar abuse”, which is a fine old literary tradition. …

Then Barber made her costly mistake: “Thornton claims her book is based on hour-long interviews with more than 250 people. I would have taken this on trust, except that my eye flicked down the list of her 250 interviewees and practically fell out of its socket when it hit the name Lynn Barber. I gave her an interview? Surely I would have noticed?”

[Judge] Tugendhat found that in fact Thornton had interviewed Barber for her book. There were only two possibilities: either Barber was lying in her review, or she was forgetful. Barber pleaded the latter, pointing out that she had sometimes written about her terrible memory. This had the ring of truth: as a friend and former colleague, I can confirm that Barber is what you might kindly call “scatty”. But the judge ruled that it made no difference. Even if she didn’t know that her remark about the interview was wrong, she was at the very least reckless, “that is, indifferent as to whether it was true or false”.

What most interested me in this situation, and something seemingly overlooked by Wheen’s subsequent analysis, is that this was not simply one literati critiquing another over the use of Oxford commas. This was an attack on the research principles of an academic. As such, it isn’t merely an acerbic statement on a manuscript; it brings the author’s methodology and merit for tenure into question.

Wheen seems to reminisce about the “good old days” when reviewers were able to rip each other to shreds with an impunity fostered by personal isolation. Examples from Twain, Orwell and others prove this point in regards to literary circles. However, in the academy (especially in biblical studies and related fields in which I move) more decorum is often shown/needed in reviews because personal interactions are almost unavoidable.

How a Book is Made (at Eerdmans)

August 6, 2011

EerdWorld has a cute post on How an Eerdmans Book is Born (in Sixteen Easy Steps). The most telling hurtle is step 2, Project Development:

An editor works with an author or editor to turn a good idea into a good book. This can take a while, but it’s almost always worth the investment of time and effort that goes into it.

Another reminder that all writing is in some sense rewriting.

Review on Beyond Sacred Violence

August 5, 2011

With all the chaos that summer teaching brings, I failed to note (or even notice!) that my review of Kathryn McClymond’s Beyond Sacred Violence: A Comparative Study of Sacrifice has been published in the Summer issue of The Journal of Religion. Her methodology is the basis for my SBL 2011 paper Sacrificial Typology and Nazarite’s Burning Hair, which I will be presenting in the Ritual in the Biblical World section on 11/19 at 1pm.

Heap of Hittite Helps

July 30, 2011

A great Hittite resource—complete with access to Luwian Hieroglyph fonts! (Sorry for the German)

Hethitologie Portal Mainz

Ein Projekt der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur Mainz (Kommission für den Alten Orient) und der Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (Lehrstuhl f. Altorientalistik) in Kooperation mit zahlreichen in- und ausländischen Partnern.




Day of Archaeology 2011

July 29, 2011

Today is the “Day of Archaeology 2011.” Four hundred archaeologists are blogging their research over at the blog of the same name. While the Levant and Anatolia are severely under-represented, I’d still encourage you to check it out.

A Misunderstanding of Genre…

July 10, 2011

One of my favourite adages is “A misunderstanding of genre leads to a misunderstanding of the text.” This can be seen in the following strip from Doonesbury:

A few years back I picked up the Society of Biblical Literature’s Teaching the Bible: Practical Strategies for Classroom Instruction (edited by Mark Ronance). One of the teaching strategies suggested was to have students explain the seven days of creation while you (the prof) systematically sketch them on the board.

Obviously, the result of such an exercise is a cosmology vastly different from our own—a flat earth surrounded by water, held back by a dome upon which the sun, moon and stars are pinned. It’s only at this point that most of them are willing to entertain that what Genesis is doing is not science. I wonder if the sentiments portrayed in the comic above are part of the reason this acknowledgement is so difficult.

The Problems with Descriptive Linguistics

July 3, 2011

Comic courtesy of SMBC

The Latest Biblical Studies Carnival

July 2, 2011

Chris Brady (Targuman) has posted the latest Biblical Studies Carnival. Personally, I was off the grid for most of the month and find it more useful than ever to have this little summary of the month’s activity. The comic are a nice touch.

I hope to be updating this cite more in the upcoming month as I return to the academic and research routine. Lots of thoughts on Ugaritic to throw out there (hopefully).