Re: [XTalk] How much does genre matter?
>I hope you had a fine day at the beach. Meanwhile, I'm holed up here in the
>mountains of Arizona, without even benefit of snow.
I'll be there for a week starting today... to clear that up.
We'll get back to this topic... if you want to... but two comments...
Frankly I can't believe all this hemming and hawing over genre. Fictive
stories and fictive elements in stories are not the hardest things in the
world to figure out. One doesn't need to go into complex anthropological or
(with Rikk) great philosophical surmises IN TONS of cases on this matter.
Yes, I think there are cases that leave on wondering... BUT... just for two
examples here for you to think about:
Elisha and the She Bears: That strikes me as a pretty darn easy story to
say... "hey, this is a fictive story" (the same sort of response to say,
"Little Red Riding Hood"). Could it happen? Well, ***maybe;)!*** as in I'm
not getting into any purely ontological argument about REALLY STRANGE events
never, ever possibly happening. The question more appropriately is... does
this story which bears (sorry;)!!!) all the signs of "a good piece of
fictive writing, here for theological purposes" give us ANY (repeat ANY)
data for first thinking this might be about an event remembered AS TOLD?
Are there any other sources for backup to THIS STORY (all caps for emphasis,
not shouting BTW?) Here, the answer is none that I'm aware of, so I'm going
to say... "hey, fiction." If tomorrow we find an interesting report of
"Ancient Israel News and Digest;)!" that tells this story, then I'll be
moved to... well, "wow... KEEN!", maybe some evidence for this. BUT WE
AIN'T GOT THAT!.
So... to Jesus "casting out the unclean Spirit" in Mark 1:21 ff. When I
read that story... likewise... an assessment fiction (Jesus chatting with
the demon and the demon chatting back... having a DANDY theological
conversation that is very much at the heart of Mark's whole theological
agenda... "hey, I say, Mark is really writing some good stuff!" Could this
be a historical report? Maybe. Could there be history "underneath" this
report? Maybe. But this kind of writing is just like tons of other
theological story writing in the Scriptures. It is consistent with Mark's
plot and themes. And we HAVE NO OTHER INDEPENDENT STREAMS OF DATA TO
PROVIDE A CHECK on this story (again... not shouting... emphasis!). What we
DO HAVE in the Hebraic materials preceeding this in Psalm and in Prophetic
writing, theological affirmations of what GOD will make happen when the
eschaton comes (see Psalm 103 and Isaiah 65, of course). What we do have is
clear theological affirmation background for writing such as this. What we
do have is Mark's theological affirmation in 1:1. What we do have is Mark's
whole framing of Jesus stories to show this theological hope come alive.
Lots of good sermons in this! But HISTORY REMEMBERED? My answer is "no."
And to conclude this I would note for all to read the line Mark puts in
there about the amazing question raised in this story... as in 1:27 a, b, c.
So... we can get into the intricacies of all of this, but I really want you
guys to think about literature and genre. Theological language is
metaphoric language. The most potent forms of that communication are poetic
and the Bible is chock full of that poetry. As I said in another post...
have not done a funeral yet that the family hasn't requested the 23rd Psalm.
To find any history in or underneath poetics... the burden historically is
on independent streams of data.
Now... time for beach for a week. I KNOW I'm going to see some wonders
>>And it is no smugness to say when we have NO OTHER RESOURCES
>>about particular stories... to say, "hey, I've just got to be agnostic about
>>the historicity in said story/ said event."
>Ah. Now you're merely *agnostic* instead of disbelieving. I thought you
>could tell when something was an "obvious fictional work"?
>As an anthropologist, it seems to me that works of literature float like
>the tip of an iceberg on a sea of culture, and the part of the iceberg
>below the surface represents the oral culture associated in one way or
>another with the work of literature. It seems to me that people who operate
>as if all of culture happens at the level of literature have a rather
>impoverished view of culture.
>>As for getting into genre questions in I-II Kings... I'm going to the beach
>>tomorrow and don't want to get off on all of this... but I'll be specific
>>about 3 pericopes! I don't think the story of Elijah parting the Jordan is
>>historical... I don't think the story of a dead man touching Elisha's bones
>>and springing back to life is historical... and I really don't think the
>>story of the shebears is historical;)! So... just to intro that subject,
>>but to leave it with you for further thoughts... this ought to give you an
>>indication where I "non-smugly" want to say... these are fictional stories!
>So instead of frolicking on the beach, my head is buzzing with questions.
>Like, how do you know if a work is "obviously" fictional? And how do you
>define the difference, in genre terms, between history and fiction? If you
>think it might be true, then you call it history, and if you think it can't
>be true, then you call it fiction? I thought that genre were supposed to be
>defined by distinctive use of words, certain syntactic markers, distinctive
>linguistic formulae, or the like. What tips you off in I-II Kings that the
>author is shifting gears from (whatever) to fiction? And do you think the
>*author* and/or the intended audience was aware of the distinction that
>>Thanks for the words of well wishing at the beach.
>I hope you had a good time. Next summer, say near the end of July, I'll
>write to you from some cool mountain cabin :-)
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