Monday, August 1, 2011

Fall History classes and Theology Fail

One of the Fall classes I will be teaching is Historiography. So far I have a few books planned out and a number of essays/journal articles for the class ( a lot of new stuff so I am excited to try it out especially on reading Agamben). The aim of the class is to teach the writing of History and also to help the students prepare their own writing project by doing a historiographical survey.

I think I have been a historian by heart more than a theologian. One of the themes without a solid answer is the tension between concepts (metaphysical, philosophical or theological) and the historical context. Theology has at times rubbed me the wrong way because it seems to deal with a discussion in the clouds totally divorced from history. Now the other side of this coin is that if you go too forward with the historical context then the charge of relativism is leveled at the historicist. But it's that Nietzschean suspicion of concepts that I think are more than ever necessary as we try to work out or at least live within this tension.

On a side note, I just recently had a paper rejected that I wrote on Barth and Zizek on the human subject. This response reminded me of a similar one I had at community college when my essay was read in front of the class as an example of a crappy paper (this was especially enlightening after having my essays from a previous class published). Still, it taught me to write for an audience and to keep working on the craft. So the criticism boiled down to "this is a graduate paper, with all its promises and faults" because it ended up being more of a survey than a critical piece. What I might end up doing with this paper is to see Zizek as radicalizing a Barthian stance especially as I would classify both as part of the Hegelian tradition since Zizek has a pragmatic use for theology.

So one of the issues that I'm having I posted on last week: finding my critical voice. I think the historian in me likes to layout the scholarship but the theologian in me has a hard time saying were I stand in this landscape. For example, I am at the point of figuring out my thesis and the fact that I have to boil it down to its smallest point is a little daunting. I have themes and ideas I have written about in the last 3 years but to completely commit to something is a little scary especially because it has to be new to scholarship. The point is that it is time to put the cards on the table and move away from the somewhat facile comparisons and start to boldly say: "I claim."


  1. In this sense, historiography is safer then? If it's a survey of what has come before, one doesn't have to find their critical voice to the same degree as one would if the paper were different...?

  2. It's not so much that then when one does historiography one makes one point via empirical-historical evidence than arguing abstract points.