Baker Academic

Monday, May 13, 2013

What is the Shelf Life of Social Memory Theory - Le Donne

Some trends last longer than others.  I was aware of this banal reality when I was writing my The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David.  At the time that I wrote, I had no reason to believe that "memory" would become a trend in biblical studies.  I did, however, observe a memory trend in other fields of the humanities.  Not wanting my book to have a short shelf life, I began, not with "memory" but with philosophical hermeneutics and "typology".  I then juxtaposed a few conceptually analogous categories. It seemed to me that the "hermeneutical spiral" had a great deal in common with the trajectory of human memory (both autobiographical and collective).  My motive was to build from a foundation that has had a tried and true place in biblical studies and then to bring in a relatively novel idea.

To my surprise, the time was ripe for the topic of memory in Jesus research.

Shortly after I finished the book, I sought out Dick Horsley for advice.  Prof. Horsley is always on the cutting  edge of interdisciplinary study and rides trends like a top-notch surfer boy.  I was worried that if I hitched my wagon to "memory" I would crash and burn as soon as the shelf life for the trend had expired.  (I've been reading St. Paul, so I'm trying to mix as many metaphors as I can.)  Prof. Horsley's advice was that I shouldn't distance myself from the trend—that I might as well see it through.  So far, it has been good advice.  Memory has indeed become a trend and we are only scratching the surface.

Still, I continue to be cautious.  Is this memory thing going to be like "critical realism"?  I.e. will only a couple people really swim in the theory while a generation of others dog paddle?  Or will social memory theory be like literary/narratological studies?  I.e. will it continue to evolve, adapting exciting developments from other fields of study?  I guess the key distinction here is that the latter remains (at its better moments) attentive to how parallel conversations are developing.  I'm cautiously optimistic.

This week's poll is meant to gauge how cautious and/or optimistic I should be.
Something is screwy with our google blogger poll gadget. I have removed said poll. -acld

1 comment:

  1. I concur with your caution, and in order to stay ahead of the curve, I advise you to write next on "The New Perspective On Social Memory Of Jesus". Chris can then follow with his corrective book on the New Perspectives, or he could say "Variegated Perspectives" instead.

    As my forthcoming book will be titled "Beyond The New Perspectives On Social Memory of Jesus", I'd ask that the two of you get to work pronto on your assignments.