- Reading Writing Right: Essays Presented in Honour of Prof Elna Mouton ed. by Jeremy Punt and Marius J. Nel
Reading Writing Right represents a collection of essays aimed to celebrate the academic contributions and research activity of Prof. Elna Mouton, who retired from Stellenbosch University's NT department in 2017. It says quite a lot about your legacy when a group of academics are so keen to produce a whole volume of essays (seventeen) to express their appreciation of your contribution to their own lives and to the world of theological education, within only one year of your retirement.
I met Prof. Mouton for the first time at the 2018 annual meeting of the New Testament Society of Southern Africa and was immediately keen to read the volume of essays.
The book is divided into three sections. The first section, titled "Right Reading," consists of seven chapters that are concerned with Mouton's insistence on the importance of reading responsibly and accepting responsibility in one's academic and "other" dimensions of being. The second section, titled "Reading Writings," consists of six chapters that focus on specific texts, providing a contextual interpretation of these from different perspectives. The third section, titled "Readings and Writings," consists of four chapters in which the focus is on Mouton's influence on their particular spheres of interest.
According to Dirk J. Smit (32), Mouton's "right reading" is not to "strive for simple solutions and for harmony; she prefers to stay on the thresholds, she looks from all sides, she observes, listens, smells, tastes, feels, enjoys, celebrates, delights." Perhaps that is why Bernard C. Lategan (ch. 2) lauded her for escaping the narrow-mindedness found in a lopsided or one-sided type of reading, by remaining at the margins.
In chapter 12, by Angelique Havenga, the reader can gain a glimpse of the well-roundedness of Mouton's notions about her lived spirituality, which is "very much tied up with our embodied lives on earth; and, in fact, has to do with how we see, interpret and understand the world around us" (204; italics original).
In chapter 13, Marius J. Nel links the milestone event of Mouton's inaugural lecture, as the first female professor in NT studies at Stellenbosch University, to his interpretation of Matt 18:15–20, inspired by Mouton's [End Page 591] reshaping of "the pathos of New Testament Studies to be life-affirming for all" (229).
Nico Koopman's essay (ch. 15) combines two notions that we tend to place at opposites, namely those of vulnerability and leadership. In a sense, the idea of retirement is often viewed with trepidation by many, yet as Denise M. Ackermann's essay (ch. 14) also affirms, "where there is a constructive response to vulnerability, anxiety and arrogance are overcome … life and leadership are exercised in humble assertiveness" (253).
I did find some of the chapters somewhat difficult to connect to the primary aim of the book, which was to honour the contribution Mouton made to the academic world and especially that of NT Studies. However, one may also view these same chapters from the perspective that Mouton's particular openness to a multiplicity of approaches and angles provided inspiration for her peers, colleagues and students to be conscious of the creative possibilities in blurring the conventional boundaries of structured reading.
All in all, I found the volume of essays insightful and would suggest that one should not underestimate the contribution of this well-polished book, edited by two of Mouton's colleagues at the time of her retirement.