The gentle art of the abstract

Taking notes by @boetter Jacob Bøtter

I have abstracts on my mind, we are collecting the hoard submitted for the Spiritual | Complaint colloquium, and arranging them into possible sections for the book, while hoping for more for the Isaiah and Empire colloquium which otherwise looks like requiring each participant to write two chapters ;)

In the meanwhile I was writing to a nervous postgraduate researcher who has to produce an abstract for a presentation to our research seminar. I had commented that the function of an abstract was to “sell” your paper as interesting and something the reader might want to hear. She suggested mentioning chocolate, so I replied:

“I think outright bribery is frowned upon, but massaging the abstract, or filling it with wishful thinking is normal.

This paper will explore...” means “I really hope that this line of approach, that I have not tried yet, sounds really interesting to me, and I hope that maybe it will allow me to have something worthwhile to say by the time the event comes round.
Previous research has shown...” either means “I think I read somewhere, but can’t for the life of me be sure, that…” or possibly “This current paper is a rehash of work I did last year which I am tarting up in the hopes of another publication, because I am too busy to think of new ideas.”

Do you have suggested “translations” for similar stock phrases from abstracts? (Not phrases you have used, of course, but ones that others might use that have a similar split between surface and deep meanings ;)

Isaiah and Empire: Colloquium: Call for Papers

Colloquium and Book

Call for papers:

Aoraki Mt Cook across Lake Pukaki, NZ

This colloquium (sponsored by Laidlaw-Carey Graduate School in Auckland, New Zealand) will explore cultural and theological implications of aspects of the book of Isaiah in the context of empire. Potential papers might include, but are by no means limited to:

  • readings of particular texts in the light of ancient imperial contexts
  • studies of the redaction history of Isaiah
  • Isaiah (or a particular text) in contemporary “imperial” or post-colonial contexts
  • theological reflections
  • cross cultural perspectives on Isaiah in imperial contexts
  • contemporary political reflections

The colloquium will take place in Auckland, NZ, on 14th-15th February 2011 (this is summertime in NZ but after schools have begun for the year). Since we intend to publish a book with the same title in 2011, draft papers will be circulated among participants in 2010 and final form submitted by April 15th 2011.

Please send enquiries and abstracts before 30th September 2010 to:

Dr Tim Bulkeley tim@carey.ac.nz or
Dr Tim Meadowcroft TMeadowcroft@laidlaw.ac.nz

For some reason SBL do not seem to have added this colloquium to their online listing, despite emailing them, though SOTS and some other professional societies have circulated the Call for Papers. In order to make it better known please either repost this, or email the link to any scholar you know with an interest in Isaiah.

Isaiah and Empire: colloquium and book

Aoraki Mt Cook across Lake Pukaki, NZ

My colleague Dr Tim Meadowcroft and I are teaching a MTheol/DMin course on “Isaiah and Empire” this semester. The more we have prepared for the course the more aware we have become that, despite the fact that most readings of the book of Isaiah see it as set against several (traditionally three) distinctly different Impreial contexts, there is no book addressing the topic of the interaction of this work and “empire”.

The first section of the book is (mainly) set against the backcloth of Judah as a client state of the Neo-Assyrian empire, chapters 40-54 are widely seen as speaking first to Judean exiles in Babylon (the heart of the empire then),1 while the last chapters seem to address inhabitants of the province of Yehud in the Persian Empire. Add to that the recent popularity of empire (and of Post-colonial approaches) in Biblical Stidies, and you see why we are surprised by the lack of a book or journal with a topical issue. Hence the colloquium, leading to a book, that we are planning.

The idea is to get participants reading each other’s work before the meeting, so interacting at more depth at the meeting, then editing their own papers afterwards to make a more coherent book, yet one which reflects differing approaches and methods.Here is the call for paper (as a Download PDF):

Isaiah and Empire

Colloquium and Book

Call for papers:

This colloquium (sponsored by Laidlaw-Carey Graduate School in Auckland, New Zealand) will explore cultural and theological implications of aspects of the book of Isaiah in the context of empire. Potential papers might include, but are by no means limited to:

  • readings of particular texts in the light of ancient imperial contexts
  • studies of the redaction history of Isaiah
  • Isaiah (or a particular text) in contemporary “imperial” or post-colonial contexts
  • theological reflections
  • cross cultural perspectives on Isaiah in imperial contexts
  • contemporary political reflections

The colloquium will take place in Auckland, NZ, on 14th-15th February 2011 (this is summertime in NZ but after schools have begun for the year). Since we intend to publish a book with the same title in 2011, draft papers will be circulated among participants in 2010 and final form submitted by April 15th 2011.

Please send enquiries and abstracts before 31st August 2010 to:

Dr Tim Bulkeley tim@carey.ac.nz or
Dr Tim Meadowcroft TMeadowcroft@laidlaw.ac.nz

PS don’t forget the other colloquium call for papers on has still not closed:
spiritual│complaint : theology and practice of lament

  1. one minority view would see this section addressed to people in Judah but still under the Babylonian empire []

The prophecies of Neferti

I’ve finally got to read James Linville‘s Amos and the Cosmic Imagination

[amtap book:isbn=0754654818]

I know it was published back in ’08, but books (especially expensive European books take a while to get to our library down here ;)

The book itself is stimulating, not least because he seems to be starting in the right place i.e. assuming that Amos is something like a work of historical fiction written sometime in the Persian or Hellenistic period, and without making too much fuss about the textual archaeology that seems so often to render studies of the prophetic corpus dull and insipid, he takes the reader (at least in the first chapter or two) on a journey of imagination into reading this work.

The pyramid of Snefru (photo by Charlie Phillips)

However, that’s not what I want to write about here, in an almost passing comment he refers to the Prophecies of Neferti an Egyptian work that I’ve not paid much attention to. It really is fascinating stuff, well at least to me, set back in the days of Snefru some four or five hundred years in the (presumed) writer’s past it tells of a prophetic speech, delivered to the ancient king by a sage. The contents are much like a biblical prophetic book, though with the narrative frame in place of a superscription. So, already a sort of paradigmatic prophetic fiction from the 20th century (BCE), but beyond or as well as that there are loads of phrases and images that resonate with Amos…

Now, how can I work all this together to make a paper on either Complaint or Isaiah and Empire, since I need material for abstracts on those topics fast!?