religious text

Thu, 7 Apr 1994 20:42:13 EST

I'm startled by the dismissive attitude of
some on this list towards religious texts. Have
anthropologists stopped paying attention to myths?
Admittedly, collections of myths can be deadly dull
to read, but that's because myths are usually supposed
to told aloud. They are usually rooted in oral
literature. Even written down, however, they are
not abstruse texts. They are quite accessible, and
they have to be frankly to last. No matter whether
it be the Torah, the New Testament, or the Qu'ran--
the texts I recall Stephanie Nelson mentioned
particularly, or any other for that matter. Children
can tell you the stories, and they do.

Myths are multivalent, heavily symbolized, and capable
of continuing interpretation. Those interpretations--the
hemaneutic, the exegesis, the doctrinal raison d'etre, all
those learned trappings--sure, that stuff can be a hard
slog for the reader, I won't dispute that...but those
aren't the myths. Theory of myth isn't myth either.
Art criticism isn't art. Theology isn't religion.
and so forth. A good theoretical stance ought to lend
itself easily to lots of commonplace examples. I have
not noticed many springing readily to the lips of those
espousing their devotion to Lacan, Foucault, Derrida,
and the like. You'd think if these theoretical stances were so
accessible, their defenders would have lots
of nifty examples at the ready with which the theory
could be illustrated and the hesitant enticed to have
a go at the good stuff....

'course I'd rather hear a good story any day...
any day.

Maureen Korp, PhD (a woman whose claim to fame once
was having read all of Hegel before deciding she
was not a Hegelian)

University of Ottawa