The first and the last

Photo “Written in Gold” by Anonymous Account

Opening sentences matter. As Charles pointed out using First Sentences from Ford and Fretheim they either draw readers in or repel them. But last sentences could be important too, they are one’s last chance to leave an impression on (at least sequential) readers minds.

With such thoughts in mind (see Why is academic writing turgid?)I looked with unusual trepidation at the first and last sentences of my Colloquium article (concerning how even critical historically-minded scholars seem programmed to invent authors when reading Amos).

My article starts:

Paul Ricoeur speaks of metaphor as ‘semantic impertinence,’ for it is lack of pertinence which makes metaphor work.

That’s an OK first line… but I am much less sure of the concluding marathon of a sentence:

In this subversion lies a new freedom – of the text and its readers – from the dead hand of an “author,” this permits even encourages the invention – through a collaboration of text and reader – of “Amos” the hero and “author” of the words; or as Keep, McLaughlin, and Parmar conclude their brief discussion of hypertext and the death of the author: “The Author may be dead, but his ghosts may be even more eloquent.”

I like the ideas, KM & P’s sentence is great, but the turgid mess of a paragraph-like sentence should have been edited out. I suspect many academic final sentences are worse than their corresponding firsts. I hate to think what Fretheim’s might have been ;) For when we get to the end of a piece we are tired and want rid of it. When our long-suffering proof-readers get to the end they are tired and bored. Result a misery of a final sentence :(

The article is:
Tim Bulkeley, “L’auteur est mort, but won’t lie down: inventing authors while reading AmosColloquium 43.1, 2011, 59-70.

I believe the copyright remains with me, except the typesetting, so I’ll post it here soon…

Now to look at the final sentence of the one I’m working on (about the confessions of Jeremiah, lament and complaint):

Thus, in this larger sense, the narrated drama of Jeremiah, his opponents and his God serves to explore theological responses to this disaster, and thus serves similar functions to the complaint psalms.

As I feared, I am running true to form. Long and turgid. I must improve that!

2 comments on “The first and the last

  1. Charles Halton

    Nice post, Fretheim’s last sentence is long as well: “This ongoing formulation of new laws is in tune with the divine intention, and some of those laws (like their biblical predecessors) may well stand over against existing biblical statutes; but this should happen only after a thorough and careful consideration of the old.”

  2. tim

    Happily not as monstrous as mine!