British Museum Exhibition on Book of the Dead

A rare treat. The British Museum is putting on an exhibition of the Book of the Dead. I want to go! How perfect does this exhibit coincide with my Mellon Seminar: Mapping Death?!

Here is the LINK to the exhibition page which I found via Deirdre Good's blog. The minute video is a teaser. But no REAL information posted. I wonder if their will be a book? I hope so.

Mellon Seminar Reflection 1: What are T/traditions?

One of the goals of my Mellon Seminar this year is to develop further conceptual language to talk about T/traditions and how we critically understand them and their transmission. There has been a move in scholarship away from the discussion of T/tradition(s) in favor of the language of communities of discourse and discursive fields. These are defined by the conversations or communications among those of various identities. There are many reasons for this move, one being the distaste to speak about things "traditional," the association of the "traditional" with the normative (and therefore "orthodox"), and the (incorrect) view that traditions develop in a linear sense (which they don't).

I am not ready to give up the concept of the T/tradition. In fact, I find it necessary to maintain in order to do justice to historical memory. There are Traditions with a capital "T" that become normative and then norm. There are traditions with a little "t" that are not necessarily normative, or the property of the dominant communities that are norming. These traditions are often forgotten or lost or so marginalized that they become invisible to our histories. Yet they were there. Along the way, people began selecting some of these traditions as 'worthy' to remember while others not so much, even up to the modern day. These particular traditions become known as legitimate "sources" to reconstruct our past, while the others are ignored or framed as unimportant.

We can see this with the field of Christian Origins. The 'orthodox' traditions are understood to be the normative and their traces (the four NT gospels, certain letters of Paul, etc) are perceived to be legitimate sources for our reconstruction of early Christian history, while the rest of early Christian literature is relegated to 'interesting in its own right, but of no significant value to the study of early Christianity'. In fact, the normative materials are given a 'historical' pedigree that is not granted any other early Christian text.

Clearly this needs to be rethought in a major way. What if we choose to examine the traces of the traditions that have been ignored and delegitimized? What if they became sources for our understanding of the early history of Christianity and Christian thought? This is one of my BIG questions as a scholar. Being attuned to it means that I have opened myself up to see things differently.

So I think that T/tradition(s) are important to study, and that we need to maintain the word because it gets at the very problem of historical reconstructions, normation, and our process of selecting certain traces of Tradition to be our historical sources, while not recognizing traces of other traditions as worthy of such status.

Summer writing

I can't believe it, but I have cleared my desk of those lingering commitments that have diverted so much of my time and energy this past year. The lesson I have learned from this is to start saying "no" to projects that cannot be accommodated within my own research agenda. Otherwise what I research and write about begins to be what everyone else wants me to write about and not necessarily what I want to write about.

So this summer I return to my own research and writing schedule. First on my agenda is to finish Sex and the Serpent: Why the Gender Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter.

Second is to turn my attention to my Mellon Seminar which I will be leading the next academic year. It is called Mapping Death: Religious Preparations for the Afterlife Journey. I plan to study the Gnostic movements from the perspective of initiatory cults in the ancient world, and see what happens. I have five students working with me, each preparing his or her own project. I want to build a web page for the seminar with abstracts of each of our projects. So watch for that as September nears.

Third, I want to organize my thoughts and develop my book on the Gospel of John. I have tentatively named it John Interrupted: Reconceptualizing the Origins of Christianity and Gnosticism.

So that is my summer...and my next year.