Thursday, October 04, 2007

Small World...

The Small World of Academia
'Coincidence City' . . . a bit like Jung's Synchroni-City
(Image from Fantastic Fiction)

Some readers may have noticed the blogroll links to several of my papers and may have even clicked on a few. Eventually, I'll post copies of these papers at my academic homepage, but only when I've figured out all of the quirks there.

A couple of papers that I'd really like to post there are currently online at the Catholic Resources website of Felix Just, a Jesuit and scholar of Johannine studies who was a student of beginning Greek with me at the Graduate Theological Union back during my Berkeley days.

That website is where Professor Barzilai of Hebrew University recently stumbled across a paper, "'Ethical' Dualism of Food in The Gospel of John," that I presented at the 1999 SBL Conference, back when I still had high hopes of a career in religious studies.

Anyway, I received an email from Professor Barzilai inquiring about this paper:
I have just read your interesting paper on "'Ethical' Dualism of Food in the Gospel of John" as it appears on the Internet. Your research on the uses of vinegar in early Judaic and Christian sources is highly relevant to my current work, and I would very much like to mention it. Has the paper appeared elsewhere in print form? If so, I would appreciate information about where I could locate it.
Receiving such requests is always profoundly gratifying to obscure gypsy scholars such as myself because we also receive at least fleeting confirmation that our writings are not completely in vain and that better scholars than ourselves sometimes even read the stuff.

I responded with alacrity, of course:
What a surprise that someone would be interested in that paper. And a coincidence, too, for I'm presenting an updated version this coming Saturday at a historians' seminar here in Seoul, where I live and teach. I haven't yet published that article, mainly because just as I was getting started on reworking it, I had to relocate to Korea -- where I could at least teach English -- because I couldn't get anyone interested in offering me a position in religious studies.

I've been reworking it slowly, and presenting it at conferences (e.g., St. Andrews in Scotland, the SBL international conference in Singapore, now here in Seoul). I even presented an early version of it in Jerusalem when I was a Golda Meir Fellow (1998/9).

I can send you the updated version -- and the AAR paper as well [i.e., "Gift-Giving Across the Sacred-Profane Divide: A Maussian Analysis of Heavenly Versus Earthly Food in Gnosticism and John's Gospel,"] from that same year, 1999 -- but the exotic fonts won't come through, I fear, for I've got some technical difficulties related to being here in Korea. But you'll easily overcome that limitation by checking sources that Hebrew University will have. The papers aren't much different, but I believe that I've reworked them a bit in a more theoretical direction.

I see that you are in the English Literature Department at Hebrew University. That's the sort of thing that I'm doing these days, but mostly with Medieval and Renaissance literature. I've worked on Beowulf, the Gawain Poet, and Langland, but I do a lot of my work on Milton because I can use my religious studies background to great effect on his epic poem, Paradise Lost, and actually have an advantage over many other scholars.

I happen to know Sanford Budick, by the way, but only by email. He did send me a signed copy of his book The Dividing Muse several years ago when I was at Hanshin University (outskirts of Seoul) and just getting started in Milton studies. I was trying to look into the rabbinical tradition as background to Paradise Lost and was attempting to track down the dove as Holy Spirit present at creation but found that Golda Werman had gotten there before I did.

Anyway, if my two papers are of any use, you may cite them as unpublished articles, works in progress, or as variants of my online versions at Felix Just's website.

I'd be very interested in your own work. If you'd like to have a reader of it at some point, I'd be happy to help out.

Incidentally, I see that you've done a lot of work on Lacan. One of my colleagues here is working on a book manuscript on Lacan and Taoism, Lao Tzu, and similar material. I don't know that this sort of approach would interest you, but just in case...
Professor Barzilai -- struck by some of the intriguing coincidences -- sent a friendly reply entitled "Small World!" (possibly an allusion to the David Lodge novel of the same title):
What an amazing series of coincidences you describe . . . . Of course, I stumbled on your paper quite accidently while looking for something else. If I had searched deliberately, I doubt I would have ever found it.

I'll be glad to cite your updated version if it suits my parochial interests as well as your 1999 version because -- odd as this may sound -- I was fascinated by your discussion of vinegar due to my work on the Bluebeard story and some of its ancient variants. So I truly learned a lot from your discussion.

But to imagine that you actually presented it here in Jerusalem several years ago -- to top the unlikelihood of our mutual interest in . . . vinegar, it just seems altogether too implausible. I'm still in the process of writing and so my essay is not yet presentable or digestible.

As for my interests in Lacan, although I've inevitably internalized many of his psychoanalytic theories, I'm not working in that direction any longer. My book on Lacan seems to have exhausted what I had to say. One of my colleagues at Tel Aviv University recently completed a dissertation (400 pp. or so) in Hebrew on Lacan and Christian theology. He's planning to have it translated into English with a view to publication.

And a last coincidence for the day: my daughter is currently writing her Ph.D. dissertation in Comparative Literature at Berkeley.
Fascinating stuff . . . for the likes of me, anyway. For all I know, Dear Reader, you may be bored stiff, but why -- in that case -- are you still reading? Instead, go read something more interesting, like the David Lodge novel mentioned above: Small World: An Academic Romance.

Here's a 1989 Raymond Thompson interview with Lodge about Small World and its links to Medieval romance.

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At 7:11 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I continued reading, because of 6 degrees of separation, even though I have never been in your academic circles.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

And I'm grateful for your faithful readership, Hathor.

My blog goes many places, and I welcome people from all over ... except for trolls and crazies, but sometimes even them when they provide blogworthy material.

By the way, Small World really is a funny book ... at least for us academic types.

Jeffery Hodges

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