- The Recycled Bible: Autobiography, Culture, and the Space Between
The Recycled Bible consists of eight essays that adopt autobiographical criticism—the idiosyncratic subjectivities of their authors—as a motivating perspective for interpreting Biblical texts. These autobiographical notions are framed by an introductory essay by the editor, Fiona C. Black, and two responses. These responses are in essence mini-reviews, incisive and direct in their criticisms of the book. Their inclusion demonstrates an admirable scholarly courage on the part of the editor (10).
In her introduction, Black writes that the articles address the space between autobiographical and cultural criticism (1). In postmodern style, particularity is the new impartiality: all perspectives are incomplete by definition, but each has value when enunciated: "The essays in this book ask what role the critic's life . . . has to play in experiencing text. This life writing does not then operate as an all-seeing, all-knowing 'I,' but as one of a number of influences that generates a reading" (8).
In establishing the genealogy of the book, Black acknowledges the importance of cultural studies and feminism (3–5). So it is appropriate that the first essay, Deborah Krause's "www.recycledpaul.commentary: Reading and Writing the Pastoral Epistles as Hypertexts" deals with its author's conundrum: "How does a self-respecting feminist get here, writing a commentary on 1 Timothy?" (12). This New Testament letter contains explicit anti-woman rhetoric, including lines enjoining silence on women, and prohibiting women from teaching (1 Tim 2:8–13). Krause's solution is self-avowedly "modest" (following Haraway's "modest witness" [14-15]); she takes the original circulation of the letter, its canonization, and its continued flashpoint status in contemporary discourse, as a "complex dialogue" (24) and rich referent network of conversation around the text. While Krause objects to the letter's misogyny, she brings neither ethical outrage nor outrageous laughter to bear on a text that has warped the lives of millions, instead trying to help seminary students parry with the text to "nuance and empower their practice of Christian rhetoric" (23).
Andrew Wilson's memoir of his Australian Catholic all-boys school, and the inculcation of rote attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary, serves as one of several pericope-sized autobiographical revelations, scattered throughout the book, of how religion was actually conveyed to youths in the mid-to-late twentieth-century English-speaking world. No reverent initiations into infinite divine mystery here! Instead, Wilson's description of a classroom of "[s]melly, overly macho males . . . reciting the words [of the Prayer to the Virgin [End Page 393] Mary] in a slow and stilted unison with as little attention to the hard consonants as possible and exhibiting a studied avoidance of anything that might resemble poetic meter or rhythm" is hilarious, recreated with that fullness of detail that marks ritual memory (27–28). The remainder of the article, though, disappoints with its fragmentation of theories of fragmentation, in order to conflate Maria Callas and Mary the Blessed Virgin (44). At one level, Wilson is taking autobiographical method quite seriously: the overlapping responses he has as a gay man to Callas and Mary got him to rethink his Catholic childhood, and to examine the construction of a (falsely) coherent image of Mary from Biblical text fragments. But he privileges the Biblical texts, on the one hand, and Kristeva-inspired readings of excess on the other, instead of maintaining the intriguingly shifting sands of autobiographical insight.
Ela Nutu's essay on The Matrix, the Bible, and post-communist politics, forefronts the ways location informs our readings. A cottage industry has grown up around religious and philosophical interpretations of The Matrix. Nutu shows how such readings are plausible, but expresses how, for her, a reading that references the totalitarian communism of her Romanian youth holds greater resonance: "The mighty cooperative, the Borg-like system in which people's minds, bodies, and resources are centrally controlled and managed seem to be the means of both the...