Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back from Newcastle: Bible and Critical Theory Rocks

Well, I'm back from Newcastle and the Bible and Critical Theory Seminar. It was truly an excellent few days. It was a wonderfully diverse group of people, some of whom I knew and was really pleased to catch up with again plus others I was meeting for the first time. I even met one of the bloggers on my blogroll, Judy Redman, of Judy's Research Blog. Judy has two posts on the Seminar here and here. But for a most exuberant account, Roland Boer has a very vivid and illustrated account over at Stalin's Moustache. While there were definitely some hot guys there, I certainly don't remember anything to be quite so raunchy as Roland described, more's the pity.

For me, a combination of factors, lack of money, housesitting and work commitments especially meant that I could not get to the Seminar from 2005-7. I managed to get to it in Auckland last year but it was piggybacking the SBL International and thus not in a pub as is the norm and so while for me it was a great reunion it was not quite the same as this years where it was just us and it was in a pub. I actually felt as if I had come home after a long absence. The old rabbis always imagined Heaven/the World to Come as a type of beit midrash where everyone studies Torah together. I have to say, Heaven for me would be a pub in which there is a Bible and Critical Theory Seminar. The beauty of the Seminar is that it is not necessarily all Bible; Critical Theory covers a variety of disciplines which are able to be put in conversation with biblical studies. And while this year, Bible was mostly drawn from Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, the parameter of Bible/scripture is likewise suitably broad.

It's hard to decide what the high points were for me. Two papers really gripped me. James Harding's presentation on David and Jonathan was one. Interestingly some of the themes around that story had been playing in my mind for a while resulting in my previous post. I had actually wanted to write it before I went to Newcastle but never got a chance to. Way back a million years ago I had originally planned to make David and Jonathan the focus of my research but was convinced by Ed Conrad to tackle Sodom and Gomorrah instead. It looks like James is now doing what I had hoped to do all those years ago. Mind you, David, Jonathan, Absalom and Saul play some part in my research interests around the homo-erotics of atonement. My paper at the Seminar last year (and published in the Bible and Critical Theory e-journal earlier this year) particularly looked at those dynamics in the David and Absalom story.

The other paper that really clicked with me was Tamara Prosic's Orthodoxy and Socialism and I really enjoyed meeting Tamara at the Seminar. I have a long abiding love of Orthodox Christianity and I'm afraid I spent a good deal of the time in Newcastle discussing Orthodoxy, communism, Balkan history and politics and the problems of Western Christianities and society with Tamara. She's promised me that when I next get to Melbourne she'll take me to her local Serbian Orthodox church. So I must, must, must get to Melbourne in the near future.

I'm not certain how my paper went but then I wasn't certain about some aspects of it myself. But the beauty of the Seminar is that by presenting you get to mull over your ideas in a way that you wouldn't normally if just sitting around thinking about them. And I have to say I gained a few insights and changed some ideas, or rather the analysis of some ideas, as a result of presenting at Newcastle. It'll probably mean that I can further develop the paper for publication so I'm very happy with that.

The Seminar will be in Dunedin next year originally in July but I notice that the discussion on Roland's blog favors a warmer time of year, namely February. If that's the case then I probably won't be able to make it As yet I have no idea of what's happening for me next year. There's one or two possibilities in the woodworks but nothing that would enable a February trip to Dunedin. Certainly the mid or later part of next year would work better if anything would. So we'll see. However one thing that emerged in Newcastle was the feeling that it's been too long since the Seminar was in Brisbane (2002 in fact) so I'm thinking that 2011 the Seminar should return to Brisbane. That means that we have to find a pub to hold it in. Part of me is thinking 'why not have it in a gay pub'. Why not indeed? The night before the very first Seminar back in '98 I was talking with a drag queen in a gay pub in Collingwood about the differences between drag queens, crossdressers and transgender folk. I was able to draw on that conversation when next day we were discussing the gender politics of the Strange Woman in the Book of Proverbs.

Oh yes, and today it was confirmed that I have some tutoring work plus a couple of lectures in the Introduction to World Religions course at University of Qld this semester. My very first tutoring gig in first semester 1995 was in that course (I last tutored in it in '99) and while it has changed a bit, no doubt, since those days, it's an od feeling to be returning to where it all started years ago. Hopefully that's an omen for new things next year.

Hmm, and I think this is my hundredth post on Jottings!

1 comment:

  1. 'Heaven for me would be a pub in which there is a Bible and Critical Theory Seminar' - wonderful, Michael!