What a fantastic weekend!!!
Spent the day on Saturday in Manchester Uni at a Postgrad Research Day. Hugh Pyper (spelt right this time) spoke in the morning. He explored the links between popular culture and Christian interpretation of the Bible - I think . It was an interesting ramble around so many interesting areas - from how to start your dissertation through to Christian wrestling, and whether the Bible is an appropriate book for kids to read.
Four 'images' from Hugh's talk have stayed with me especially - one was a Haiku which he was going to write on the board but didn't. It went something like this:
"Book three to the left of book you think you should read contains the real questions"
I loved the sense of anarchic intertextuality in this haiku. It feeds into a kind of Barthian/Riffaterran sense of literature as "L'Intertexte" - a kind of organic, living, developing matrix where one 'text' leads to another and another in a network of hypertextual alleyways - and of course Robert Frost - one day I took a path less travelled by and that has made all the difference.
The second was the whole wrestling thing - Hugh introduced his talk by referring to Armaggeddon 2003 and to a huge wrrestling event in Manchester this weekend. WWE and so on use a lot of Biblical imagery in what they are doing - and Hugh moved on to explore the violence in the Bible and violence in portrayal of the Bible as well. If people are turned on to the choreographed violence of wrestling, does the Church respond by its own choreographed violence - hence Christian wrestling, blood washed Africa and all that - or do we set a different paradigm? See below on "Saved".
The third was "The Bible is buried and alive in us" - the sense that the Bible is buried within us but is still alive and active. 'Us' of course can mean both ourselves and our culture. I am listening to X&Y at the moment - there is so much biblical imagery in the CD and I think I might need to write something about all that over the next week or so...get it out of my system. But this sense that the Bible is alive and active within the very heart of our society. Just because it has been repressed and held at bay does not mean it isn't there, working away, exposing the fallacy of commercialism and so on (this is me not Hugh, I think). What would it mean for that living word to exposed, revealed, unmasked for our society? I remember the kind of experience I had with the students at the Tate Modern - where is God - not here - oh yes, go and look. When they came back the world was a different shaped place for some of them. What does it mean to unveil the living word at the heart of our culture - popular, vulgar culture not just middle class pseudo-reality?
The fourth was the whole sense of whimsy with footnotes. I am not so sure that Hugh's talk was all that deep - or that it was meant to be deep. One thing that annoyed me (?) was the sense of being over and above vulgar culture. We got onto a discussion of the youth bible in the question and answer session - and the pietistic blurb which sometimes dominates the biblical text. Hugh asked what it meant to do that to the Bible - why can't we leave kids/youth to read the text unadorned. Of course, there are huge issues about bridging hermeneutical gaps and so on. But what interested me was what mileage we were trying to get out of the whole whimsical exercise? What do we think people have been doing with the Bible all this time? Do we think that the vast majority of people over the centuries have been reading the Bible as academics or as Patristic scholars. Not at all. They have been the vulgar readers - the ones who find in it the pietistic, the call for miracles, the blue collar readers. The Church today, at last, is beginning to be dominated by non-Western churches where the reading of the texts is non-Western, non-Academic, vulgar. Of course, there are some there who read the text like we academics do. But I am not certain that imposing academic reading patterns on the Bible will ever allow the buried but living word to be unveiled. I think things are just a bit more primal than all that. I don't know...
In the session after lunch, George Brooke suggested seven questions about our research which Hugh's paper prompted:
- Are you in the right starting place?
- Is there enough creative juxtaposition?
- Are you questioning assumptions?
- Is there a sensitivity to language?
- Is there enough risk - are you asking what is not suitable?
- What is your cultural position?
- What's the relevance?
We used this to talk about developing and writing research - a great afternoon.
It was good to be there on Saturday - also met some great people from Nazarene College who are doing PhDs on John - one on water imagery, one on vine imagery and one on festivals and collective memory. Also met another PhD student doing Bakhtin and Mark (I think!) and there was film in there as well. It's great to get together at these kind of events and kindle the academic flames a bit.
Got home in time for Doctor Who - last episode. I thought it was absolutely fantastic - so much so that me and the boys watched it again last night on BBC 3 - as well as the mini-documentary they do after it about what different things mean and what was important. I loved the sense of things going wrong - of the brutal horror of the daleks which, despite years of mockery as tin cans on wheels, actually seemed scary. When they appeared at the window behind that girl - Edward was behind a cushion in one second!!! I loved the sense of my boys being scared - of them interacting with a drama and feeling the tension. They are jabbering on about the next series and the Christmas special already. Inote the new Fear Factor section to the BBC website - kids talking about fear...
Of course, who didn't pick up the whole theological issue about what it means to be a god. Russell Davies seems to think gods only create - I wondered about the whole Hindu sense of the Destroyer - of a more polytheistic approach to gods of death as well as gods of life. The Emperor was clearly playing the part of the psychotic demiurge to Chris Ecclestone's ignorant Messiah and Billy Piper's rather splendid 'Metatron' - the avenging/rescuing all-powerful angel emissary - god-incarnate? Juicy stuff in any case! Someone said earlier they had given up on Doctor Who - sorry, I disagree this has been the TV event of the year! So much better than Big Bother (not a typo!!!).
Yesterday, Fathers Day - got a 1GB MP3 player, Black Eye Peas new CD and some Yorkie Bars - thanks kids! Walked to church with Sam listening to Coldplay X&Y and BEP's Pump it - we shared headphones - me with one and sam with the other. Cuts down the quality but doubles the sharing! The sun, the grounds of the College, the music, the sense of all being right in God's world, was very, very powerful. After Church we had a BBQ at the house with some friends - kids running like mad idiots all over the garden, me playing with fire, nice food, nice drink, loads of sun. The kids had a wild water fight and the dog got drenched - which she loved - she has taken to jumping in the pond when she gets too hot - not good for the pond, for the fish or for her!
Watched Dr Who (as above) and a huge thunderstorm - I love the huge windows and the fantastic views from our front room - and eventually got the kids to bed and after completing the ironing (21st century man, me!), Theresa and I sat down to watch "Saved" - a DVD about a group of American Christian School kids who are confronted with some of the real dilemmas of life as a normal human being. Fantastic satire, brilliant portrayal of what Christianity is all about and what it is not about! We are going to watch it again tonight. Thanks so much Matt and Yaz for putting me onto it and for Phil who's copy we all borrowed! I've bought it now and will be using it regularly! Cheesy beyond belief, teenage trash without doubt, American/Canadian (can they be connected with a slash?) certainly. But watch it and enjoy the irony!
I need to get on with some paperwork. Coldplay have been singing their hearts out on WMP! I love Message - "My Song is Love, Love to the Loveless Shown" - any intertextual references for you? Just a few for me...Paperwork!!! Gotta do it!!!