Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Towards a Christian sociopolitical ethic

Vincent Rougeau, in his work Christians in the American Empire: Faith and Citizenship in the New World Order, states precisely what I have been thinking for several years but have not been able to express nearly as clearly and winsomely as he does here:
Christians can and should continue to draw personal and group identity from history, language, and experience in a specific geographical place, but we cannot forget our moral obligations to the human community, both at home and abroad. (22)
That is about as good a statement of a Christian social and political ethic as I have ever read.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Discourse AnalysisLinguistics and New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Discourse Analysis by David Alan Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a helpful book in both understanding discourse analysis and moving beyond the level of word and clause study. The essays, however, do not all employ techniques of discourse analysis. In some cases, it appears that the authors simply included the term "discourse analysis" in their titles and then proceeded to use typical literary analysis, etymological studies, and background investigation to produce condensed commentaries of passages or books in the Bible. In other cases, however, normally the chapters written by linguists and translators rather than NT scholars, the techniques of discourse analysis are definitely observable. The first chapter, "Reading a Text as Discourse" by J.P. Louw, actually makes the book worthwhile all on its own.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Today in Language: Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott, a master of the English language and incisive commentator on questions of postcoloniality, died today, March 17, 2017. He was comfortable in just about any literary genre, even the epic, and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992.

Walcott differed from fellow Caribbean writers and theorists like Edward Kamau Brathwaite in that he wanted to appropriate the traditions of the English language and European literature for his Caribbean context, rather than oppose them outright. In this regard he is parallel to his deceased French counterpart, Aimé Césaire, but both men recognized and decried the historical situation that put created their social contexts.

In What the Twilight Says, for example, Walcott could write, "The common experience of the New World, even for its patrician writers whose veneration of the Old is read as the idolatry of the mestizo, is colonialism" (36). But he could also insist on the need not to be entirely defined by that history. He identifies writers who transcend the history of colonialism, a tradition of writers of which he was luminary:
The truly tough aesthetic of the New World neither explains nor forgives history. It refuses to recognize it as a creative or culpable force. This shame and awe of history possess poets of the Third World who think of language as enslavement and who, in a rage for identity, respect only incoherence or nostalgia. The great poets of the New World, from Whitman to Neruda, reject this sense of history. (37)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Most of the linguistic problems that we discover in translations result from mismatches between the source and receptor languages. Some translators will preserve the forms of the source language even when they make no sense in their home language. For mother-tongue translators, perhaps the most important benefit of studying texts in the source and receptor languages is when we discover mismatches between them. We can then replace literal renderings that make the translation unnatural or worse with correct and natural alternatives."
--Stephen H. Levinsohn, Self-Instruction Materials on Narrative Discourse Analysis, p. 10