Scholar in Training

The blog of a new postgraduate student hoping to make it against all odds in the harsh world of modern biblical scholarship. Wow, it almost sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster...

Monday, October 31, 2005

Monday Research Papers

Another Sheffield Monday, another highly enjoyable research seminar. Three papers were read today:
  • Minna Shkul, "Religious Identity and the Power of Naming: Saints and Sinners in Ephesians"
    Ephesians reflects a complex matrix of early Christianities in the late first century. Naming/categorisation within the book itself establishes both similarity and difference, and this naming is done on the basis of ethnic origin and religious affliation; e.g. saints and sinners act as stereotypical codes, which convey central values and paradigms. Minna contests that the author of Eph. uses these various categories to resocialise a formerly pagan audience, getting them to appreciate their Israelite cultural heritage and simultaneously distancing themselves from their pagan, non-Israelite background.
  • Ela Nutu Hall, "Thinking of Judith and Conjuring Salome: Why?"
    This started off examining the painting Judith I by Klimt which has repeatedly been given the title Salome. This might be surprising, until you consider the fact that Klimt paints Judith as a femme fatale, which is not really the Judith we are shown by the apocryphal book. However, the book of Judith has various gender ambiguities, which artwork over the centuries have (unwittingly?) picked up, until we get Klimt's early 20th century's femme fatale, a sexualised, Freudian-neurotic Judith.
  • Kathryn Harding, "'You have captured my heart': The Dynamics of Power in the Song of Songs"
    How does power work in the Song of Songs? Is it a one-way patriarchal thing, or a mutual egalitarian exchange? Kathryn's paper tried to occupy the middle ground by suggesting that the power dynamics within the Song are much more complex than either of these positions suggests. In light of Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse, specifically the chapters on union and vouloir-saisir (will-to-possess), the protagonists of the Song can be seen to both desire and dream of total union with each other, whilst at the same time renouncing this dream.
Minna and Kathryn are third year Ph.D. students, Ela is a Research Assistant in the Sheffield Centre for the Study of the Bible in the Modern World. (In fact, I know Minna from Mattersey Hall: she teaches a second year undergraduate module there called New Testament Christian Origins.) They were all excellent papers, and I make it clear here that my summaries of them don't really do them justice. If you're going to SBL, Minna and Kathryn are giving their papers there in just a few weeks time!

On a slightly related note, the Sheffield Biblical Studies website has had a facelift (long overdue, it has to be said!), and there's a photo of the current M.A. students here (I'm the third from the left). I'm not sure if it's my net connection, but the site seems a little slow at the moment. You, of course, may find it faster!


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