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RE: [XTalk] the dread structuralists

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  • William Arnal
    ... Yeah. MY big problem with this is precisely the slippage between minimal and maximal senses of myth. Just to clarify -- I am NOT talking about the
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 20, 2002
      David Hindley wrote:

      >For instance, Claude Levi-Strauss would have a field day with the Jesus
      >tradition. However, to complicate things, I see that there are at least
      >three different definitions of "myth" in vogue among oral folklorists, >and
      >then there is the semiotic crowd such as Roland Barthes who see myth >being
      >created everywhere and in all media. Perhaps Barthes' view of myth

      Yeah. MY big problem with this is precisely the slippage between minimal and
      maximal senses of myth. Just to clarify -- I am NOT talking about the
      distinction between myth = untrue vs. myth = elaboration on a historical
      kernel. My own view of myth includes BOTH possibilities, or to put it
      differently is neutral with respect to the historicity of the
      mythologoumena. Rather, what *I* am having a VERY hard time deciding is
      precisely how much discourse is usefully designated "myth." Levi-Strauss, it
      seems to me, is fairly narrow on this. While he evidently thinks that nearly
      all discourse can be analyzed structurally, he seems to regard myth as a
      special case. Jonathan Smith, whose work I love, APPEARS to me to be working
      from a Levi-Straussian position. Roland Barthes, as you note, and also, more
      recently, Bruce Lincoln, whose work I love almost as much as Smith's, takes
      a much more inclusive approach: all discourse has mythic elements, and thus
      myth-analysis can be applied, e.g., as BOTH Barthes and Lincoln attempt, to
      wrestling as well as to stories of the creation of the world. In the latter
      sense, of course, the Jesus stories are NECESSARILY mythic. Are they mythic
      in the former sense too? I THINK they are, but am not sure, mainly because I
      am not sure which of these two approaches I prefer.

      >You seem to be familiar with the structural anthropological >approaches,
      >what
      >have you seen produced along this line WRT the Jesus tradition? For
      > >example,
      >has anyone ever broken down the Jesus tradition to determine >its "langue"
      >and "parole"?

      Interesting. I THINK that Mack is being pushed in this direction by Jonathan
      Smith. His initial understanding of myth vis-a-vis ancient Christianity was
      rather "rough and ready," but Smith has been prodding him for years, and he
      seems to be trying to push Mack's work in the direction of a Lev-Straussian
      analysis, embellished by Marshall Sahlins, whose work I think is brilliant.
      The kind of approach being advocated by Smith, though not yet carried out,
      would see the Christian stories themselves as instances of mythic *parole*
      (or bricolage, if you will), and would seek in the broad cultural template
      of the author's world (undistorted by arbitrary restrictions like "Jewish,
      "pagan," etc.) the "langue" which was used to formulate the utterance
      (parole) in question. Smith also insists that this process -- essentially
      meta-speech -- is thoroughly quotidian, and never requires "great events" to
      explain it.

      I think this is the right way in, and AS FAR AS I KNOW, it hasn't been
      pursued substantively yet (if anyone knows otherwise, please let me know).
      As I've complained in other contexts, the most theoretically sophisticated
      folks are either the lit-crit types or theologians. Those of us who are
      unattracted by either option are still producing *theoretically* naive
      studies. It's too bad.

      regards,
      Bill
      ___________________________
      William Arnal
      Department of Religious Studies
      University of Regina
      Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 0A2


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    • beefnboots <wellingk@ohsu.edu>
      Thanks, Bill, for the insight. I m familiar with Bruce Lincoln, owning and having read and thoroughly enjoyed his _Authority: Construction and Corrosion_, but
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 20, 2002
        Thanks, Bill, for the insight. I'm familiar with Bruce Lincoln,
        owning and having read and thoroughly enjoyed his _Authority:
        Construction and Corrosion_, but I've not yet delved any deeper into
        his works. Do you have particular recommendations?

        Likewise with both Smith and Sahlin, whose works I'm wholey
        unfamiliar with... Where should I start?

        Best,

        Kelly Wellington
        Portland, Oregon

        --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "William Arnal" <warnal@h...>
        wrote:
        >
        > David Hindley wrote:
        >
        > >For instance, Claude Levi-Strauss would have a field day with the
        Jesus
        > >tradition. However, to complicate things, I see that there are at
        least
        > >three different definitions of "myth" in vogue among oral
        folklorists, >and
        > >then there is the semiotic crowd such as Roland Barthes who see
        myth >being
        > >created everywhere and in all media. Perhaps Barthes' view of myth
        >
        > Yeah. MY big problem with this is precisely the slippage between
        minimal and
        > maximal senses of myth. Just to clarify -- I am NOT talking about
        the
        > distinction between myth = untrue vs. myth = elaboration on a
        historical
        > kernel. My own view of myth includes BOTH possibilities, or to put
        it
        > differently is neutral with respect to the historicity of the
        > mythologoumena. Rather, what *I* am having a VERY hard time
        deciding is
        > precisely how much discourse is usefully designated "myth." Levi-
        Strauss, it
        > seems to me, is fairly narrow on this. While he evidently thinks
        that nearly
        > all discourse can be analyzed structurally, he seems to regard myth
        as a
        > special case. Jonathan Smith, whose work I love, APPEARS to me to
        be working
        > from a Levi-Straussian position. Roland Barthes, as you note, and
        also, more
        > recently, Bruce Lincoln, whose work I love almost as much as
        Smith's, takes
        > a much more inclusive approach: all discourse has mythic elements,
        and thus
        > myth-analysis can be applied, e.g., as BOTH Barthes and Lincoln
        attempt, to
        > wrestling as well as to stories of the creation of the world. In
        the latter
        > sense, of course, the Jesus stories are NECESSARILY mythic. Are
        they mythic
        > in the former sense too? I THINK they are, but am not sure, mainly
        because I
        > am not sure which of these two approaches I prefer.
        >
        > >You seem to be familiar with the structural anthropological
        >approaches,
        > >what
        > >have you seen produced along this line WRT the Jesus tradition?
        For
        > > >example,
        > >has anyone ever broken down the Jesus tradition to determine
        >its "langue"
        > >and "parole"?
        >
        > Interesting. I THINK that Mack is being pushed in this direction by
        Jonathan
        > Smith. His initial understanding of myth vis-a-vis ancient
        Christianity was
        > rather "rough and ready," but Smith has been prodding him for
        years, and he
        > seems to be trying to push Mack's work in the direction of a Lev-
        Straussian
        > analysis, embellished by Marshall Sahlins, whose work I think is
        brilliant.
        > The kind of approach being advocated by Smith, though not yet
        carried out,
        > would see the Christian stories themselves as instances of mythic
        *parole*
        > (or bricolage, if you will), and would seek in the broad cultural
        template
        > of the author's world (undistorted by arbitrary restrictions
        like "Jewish,
        > "pagan," etc.) the "langue" which was used to formulate the
        utterance
        > (parole) in question. Smith also insists that this process --
        essentially
        > meta-speech -- is thoroughly quotidian, and never requires "great
        events" to
        > explain it.
        >
        > I think this is the right way in, and AS FAR AS I KNOW, it hasn't
        been
        > pursued substantively yet (if anyone knows otherwise, please let me
        know).
        > As I've complained in other contexts, the most theoretically
        sophisticated
        > folks are either the lit-crit types or theologians. Those of us who
        are
        > unattracted by either option are still producing *theoretically*
        naive
        > studies. It's too bad.
        >
        > regards,
        > Bill
        > ___________________________
        > William Arnal
        > Department of Religious Studies
        > University of Regina
        > Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 0A2
        >
        >
        > _________________________________________________________________
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      • William Arnal
        ... I think his best text is _Discourse & the Construction of Society_. His _Theorizing Myth_, of course, directly addresses this myth business, but isn t
        Message 3 of 4 , Dec 20, 2002
          Kelly Wellington wrote:

          >Thanks, Bill, for the insight. I'm familiar with Bruce Lincoln,
          >owning and having read and thoroughly enjoyed his _Authority:
          >Construction and Corrosion_, but I've not yet delved any deeper into
          >his works. Do you have particular recommendations?

          I think his best text is _Discourse & the Construction of Society_. His
          _Theorizing Myth_, of course, directly addresses this "myth" business, but
          isn't quite as good as _Discourse_. _Discourse_, incidentally, is filled
          with photos, some of them very disturbing.

          >Likewise with both Smith and Sahlin, whose works I'm wholey
          >unfamiliar with... Where should I start?

          I'd recommend Smith over Sahlins. Sahlins works on Hawaii and so on, and in
          my experience it's hard to make out what he's up to without delving into all
          his work in detail, or, conversely, having it summarizing by someone (i.e.,
          not me) who knows what they're talking about. With regard to Smith, though,
          I don't think anyone can get away with talking about religion without
          reading him pretty extensively. His work most directly relevant to ancient
          Christianity is _Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities
          and the Religions of Late Antiquity_. This is a book EVERYONE in NT studies
          should read -- it addresses the, in Smith's view, perverse ways in which
          comparison is misused in our field. But Smith is more typically at home with
          the essay format (really, _Drudgery_ is just a book-length essay). My
          personal favourite of his is _Imagining Religion_, which includes essays
          ranging from Gnosticism to Cargo cults, or, as its subtitle indicates, "From
          Babylon to Jonestown." Brilliant stuff.

          regards,
          Bill
          ___________________________
          William Arnal
          Department of Religious Studies
          University of Regina
          Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 0A2


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        • Andrew Lloyd <a.lloyd2@ntlworld.com>
          ... Bill, I would agree with you on the relative lack of theoretical sophistication among historical Jesus scholars but I m curious: what is theoretical
          Message 4 of 4 , Dec 20, 2002
            --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "William Arnal" <warnal@h...>
            wrote:
            >As I've complained in other contexts, the most theoretically
            >sophisticated folks are either the lit-crit types or theologians.
            >Those of us who are unattracted by either option are still
            >producing *theoretically* naive studies. It's too bad.

            Bill,

            I would agree with you on the relative lack of theoretical
            sophistication among historical Jesus scholars but I'm curious: what
            is "theoretical sophistication" going to do for historical Jesus
            study that relative unsophistication doesn't?

            Andrew Lloyd (PhD Cand.)
            Nottingham, England
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