Session 1 is a joint with the Revelation Seminar.
“Every nation and tribe and language and people”: Revelation in UK perspective
Sensuous Hermeneutics: Cnut and the Surfer
The single greatest impediment to clarity in hermeneutics arises from the intuition that words have meaning as a property. This presentation will show an alternative to the hermeneutics of subsistent meaning, displaying a way to think about hermeneutics as an interplay of expression and apprehension. By learning about “meaning” from the more pervasive phenomenon of inference and apprehension and reasoning toward language as a special case — rather than beginning from language (which harbours subsistent “meaning”) and treating other patterns of apprehension as “the language of music,” “the language of flowers,” and so on — we can articulate a hermeneutic that explains interpretive difference, and provides ways of evaluating interpretive claims outwith the customary bounds of exegetical correctness.
Revelation and the Fate of the English Radical Bible
Revelation and related ‘apocalyptic’ language have been prominent in modern constructions of the English political Bible, particularly (but not exclusively) on the Left, as well as having a long and influential history predating modern political discourses. They have been used to construct a specifically English form of socialism which promotes social transformation (especially with reference to welfare and the NHS), equality, and freedom of conscience, and which have simultaneously been understood as protecting English socialism from Stalinist and totalitarian influences. After September 11, Tony Blair reapplied such language to social transformation in foreign policy, i.e. justifying the then forthcoming invasions to a nervous Labour Party, which pushed any hints of the older English radical Bible outside parliamentary politics. While associations with Blair have rendered such language politically problematic, ideas about creating a ‘New Jerusalem’ have continued to be rethought post-Blair, especially in light of debates about English identity and immigration.
Re-examining the Master’s Tools: Considerations on the European Particularity of Biblical Studies
Audre Lorde is famously known to have remarked with respect to the feminist struggle: “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. While recent decades have seen the rise of approaches that may genuinely be regarded as new in Biblical Studies (postcolonial, feminist, and queer readings among them), these continue for the most part to be regarded as distinct “criticisms” in their own right, operating in parallel with—and in relative isolation from—the far more dominant (and traditional) historical-critical and literary methods. Should we think of these newer approaches simply as additional tools that yield a more robust future for the discipline, or does their presence demand something more? This paper explores what it means to take seriously the origins of modern Biblical Studies in the historical and political context of (early) modern Europe. It also asks how this Eurocentrism continues to regulate developments in the discipline today. I argue that the more recent and more marginalized ways of reading biblical texts must strive for full-scale renovation of “the master’s house” (which they are ultimately incapable of dismantling), beginning with exposing—and challenging—the discipline’s situated-ness in European ways of knowing. This, I suggest, is ultimately not about methodological inclusivity; it is, rather, a matter of ethical commitment to the other.