Monday, November 28, 2011

SBL 2011: Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

I still have a bunch of notes to post on the recent SBL meeting, and I'll get them out as time allows.
On Sunday afternoon (2011.11.20), I went to the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media presentation where the theme was: "The Bible and Digital Media." Here are rough notes, but they can provide an idea of what transpired.

Presenting first was Michael Hemenway (MH): “From Codex to Kindle: Reimagining the Book”
Cited McLuhan
  • Print technologies are vehicles of stability, closed,
  • Digital technologies are open, dynamic
MH pointed out the romantic remnant of book collections like Shelfari using a bookshelf with book cover displays or Kindle using page numbers. (BTW, what shall we use to reference locations in digital editions?) He imagined a time when our own writings become part of our digital libraries, fully searchable and integrated with all our other books… (which basically is what Logos already offers with its Personal Book Builder).

Margaret E. Lee (MEL) presented: "A Digital NT for Sound and Performance"
Cf. her Sound Mapping the New Testament 
Because the NT was composed for performance, its meaning is not (primarily) in its words but its sounds. How can we better present an auditory NT? Issues of suitable graphic interface, pronunciation schemes, challenges to fluency of Hellenistic Greek.

Printed versions distract us by encouraging focus on grammar, semantics and the versions further distract us by division into sentence, verse, paragraph, chapter. All of these reflect editorial decisions and matters that are foreign to the auditory nature of the text. We need tools to analyze auditory compositional elements.

MEL presented a preliminary prototype of a digital NT that was created by one of her students at Tulsa Community College. It was a digital "document" (MEL prefers "document" as a term instead of "text) that had links to all sorts of media presentations of the Greek, including a reading of it in Koine. The display featured oral divisions rather than the traditional chapter/verse.
I have not read her book, and this was the first time I'd really encountered her approach, but it struck me that it would be quite sympathetic with Runge's type of discourse analysis.

Next, Eva Mroczek (EM) on "Digital Culture and the Death of the (biblical) Book: New Metaphors for the Study of Scriptures in Jewish Antiquity"

EM referenced the work of Katherine Hayles. Our notions of textuality are shot through with assumptions specific to print, although they have not been generally recognized as such. The advent of electronic textuality presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to reformulate fundamental ideas about texts and, in the process, to see print as well as electronic texts with fresh eyes.

Quoted K. Van der Toorn Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (p16)
The books of the bible were not designed to be read as unities. They rather compare to archives. A biblical book is often like a box containing heterogeneous materials brought together on the assumption of common authorship or chronology.
=== In antiquity, we really need to think of ‘book’ as metaphor.
Used example of Robert Frost ‘education by poetry’ on metaphor.

Consider 11QPsalmsa
We think of pss in modern digital categories: cache, archives, repository.

Ben Sira generally recognized as first authored book in Jewish antiquity
But the way he understands "author" is not same as way we understand author today. He is not asserting authorial authority but understands himself to as an heir of traditional wisdom.
In Sir 50.27 in Hebrew fragment, it is not called a book (as it does in Greek).

EM encouraged us to think of "book" as a project rather than a product.
(cf PACE project on ancient cultural engagement)

I found Mroczek's presentation to be the most interesting. I suppose I have understood authorship of the biblical books in modern terms rather than in the way it was understood in antiquity. Perhaps that is why the gospels are anonymous? Did the gospel authors mainly see themselves as a transmitters of common knowledge?

Though I am sympathetic to Lee's emphasis on the orality of the early Xn documents, I do think we can discern shifts even among the gospels. I'm convinced that Mark reflects an oral tradition and presentation, but Luke is much more conscious of the literary nature of his work.

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