Network Historicism


An Embodied Historical Approach

NETWORK CRITICISM is a revisionist approach to the construction of history.  It is an EMBODIED HISTORICAL APPROACH because it understands the physical embodiment of human beings in culture, society and material bodies to be essential to the creation and interpretation of cultural PRODUCTIONS.

Why "network" criticism?

NETWORK CRITICISM is a critical and pragmatic approach to cultural PRODUCTIONS that seeks to understand and analyze them as conduits of connectivity. The word NETWORK is carefully chosen not only because it conveys the importance of the cultural PRODUCTION as a PRODUCTION embedded within dynamic systems of meaning-connectivity or NETWORKS OF KNOWLEDGE, but also because it carries with it the force of the verb TO NETWORK and its inference that the PRODUCTION is created and endures for personal and professional gain.  The PRODUCTION is associated with or networked with certain NODES that are activated in the indigenous WEB OF KNOWLEDGE.  The PRODUCTION is created and endures within the local social and cultural MATRIX, for personal or professional gain, for some type of capital, whether this is intentional or not, whether this is structural or not. MORE...

Why is it useful?

In recent years, biblical scholars have been developing many contemporary approaches to study texts, such as Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation and Rhetorical Criticism, Reader-Response Criticism, Structural and Poststructural Criticism, and Social-Scientific Criticism.  Each of these interpretative strategies are very valuable hermeneutic tools.  But they are separate mansions.  NETWORK CRITICISM is an overarching method.  What it can provide is the construction of a house for the many mansions.  It is a METACRITICISM that can interface with other interpretative strategies in very useful ways.   MORE...

Why was it developed?

As I have conducted my research, I have been asking serious questions about the historical critical studies I am reading and those I myself am generating.

  • What does it mean to the historical enterprise when texts are forced to fit the logic of a modern person, when modern logic is privileged at the expense of the logic of the subjects themselves?
  • What does it mean to the historical enterprise when historians snag what they can from the sources to construct systems of backgrounds, influences and linear causal developments that may never have existed in history? 
  • What does it mean to the historical enterprise when we construct an author’s intent, and then understand this construction as primary and authoritative? 
  • What does it mean to the historical enterprise when we understand the message of the text to be separate from the extended conversation that the text was part of and fueled? 
  • What does it mean to the historical enterprise when we treat texts as disembodied discourses, as intellectual histories with no real connection to the material human beings who produced them – to their tangible material bodies or to the material culture they inhabited?

To address the concerns that these questions raise, I have been working to reconfigure my historical approach in a transparent and responsible way.  This reconfiguration has resulted in a revisionist approach that I am calling NETWORK CRITICISM.  MORE...

A community collaboration

In order to test this new approach, develop it,  and interface it with related interpretative strategies, we are launching a collaborative project that includes the production of an edited volume of papers and a break-out forum at the Society of Biblical Literature in 2012.

A book project in progress

Network Criticism and Biblical Studies
An Embodied Historical Approach
to the Study of Early Jewish and Christian Literature

April D. DeConick, Rice University
The Crying Dead: A Kaleidescopic Description of Naassene Initiation
"Hippolytus of Rome has left us with a confusing and tangled account of a group of Gnostics he calls the Naassenes or serpent worshippers.  His account contains excerpts and paraphrases from a commentary on two of their hymns addressed to Attis, the young god celebrated in the mysteries of the Great Mother, Cybele (Hipp., Ref. 5.6.3-11.1).   Network Criticism allows us to untangle the web of information preserved by Hippolytus, distinguishing and mapping the personal cognitive networks of the architect of the commentary, the prime users of the commentary, and the extended user Hippolytus."  MORE...


Vernon Robbins, Emory University
Sociorhetorical Interpretation (SRI) as an Interpretive Analytic within Network Criticism: Compression, Human Scale, and Emergent Structure 
"One of the undeveloped issues in Tapestry, Exploring, and volume 1 of Invention (Robbins 1996a; 1996b; 2009) is the relation of SRI to historical criticism.  Since the publication of Invention 1, April D. DeConick has developed a metacriticism called 'network criticism,' which is an embodied historical approach to texts and contexts that has emerged through interaction with SRI's use of Conceptual Integration/Blending Theory (Robbins 2007; 2009: 107-20)."  MORE...

Robert H. von Thaden, Jr., Mercyhurst College
Framing Kaleidoscopic Tapestries: Cognitive Science of Religion in a Network Critical Environment
"The 21st century is an exciting time to be engaged in religious studies.  Developments in the cross disciplinary endeavor known as cognitive science have opened up new avenues of inquiry in the study of religion (Slingerland 2008, 10; Gibbs 2005, 276; Luomanen, Pyysiainen, and Uro 2007).  The development of the cognitive science of religion promises to reorient the way some scholars of religion study and analyze this particular human phenomenon (Whitehouse 2004, 230).  Cognitive science brings to the table an interdisciplinary array of tools that can, at its best, allow scholars of formative Christianity and Judaism to rethink our work and our conversation partners (Lawson 2004, 5).  In this essay, I seek to explore the promises that conceptual intergration theory (the linguistic end of the cognitive science spectrum) holds for porducing robust NETWORK CRITICAL studies (Fauconnier and Turner 2002; Robbins 2007).  In order to do this, I will focus on the concept of 'framing' and how this cognitive process can help us, in the worlds of Seana Coulson, 'account for all the "extra" information readers infer int he course of meaning construction' (Coulson 2001, 83)."  MORE...

Grant Adamson, Rice University
Adam and Eve in the Apocryphon of John: Emergent Structure among Moses' Extended Users
"The extended nexus of few biblical products is as massive and tangled as that of Genesis 1-3.  The conversation cloud in which this production has endured throughout the centuries is firmly grounded by pragmatic concerns with the body and gender, expressed in such terms as the relation of the human being to the divine, its fall/descent into the mundane, and its salvation." MORE...

Michael S. Domeracki, Rice University
Second Century Networks: Origen, Heracleon, and the Interpretive Circles of the Gospel of John

Jared Calaway, Illinois Wesleyan University
Reproducing the Deformed Former: The Mythic and Medical Networks of the Birth of the Demiurge

Dennis Sylva, Nashotah House Theological Seminary
A Mockery of Roman Rule: The Response in the Wisdom of Solomon to Early Julio-Claudian Ideologies
Network criticism facilitates the determination of elements of the personal cognitive network of the architect and the prime users of the Wisdom of Solomon.  Simulation of this network and comparison of it to socio-cultural matrices clarifies in three passages the domain of several ideologies of the early Julio-Claudian emperors.  MORE...

more coming...

If you are a scholar who is interested in participating in this project, please contact April DeConick: