Thoughts on Eagleton Conference
The Eagleton was an interesting look at what a prominent group of people (esp.literary/cultural critics do). It highlighted the obvious to me, namely that biblical studies and theology are a little odd in comparison with other universities disciplines. This is not necessarily bad thing though I think we do miss out on a lot. The conference was largely literary and cultural criticism and interestingly there was consistenly a historical element to the criticism. Now I'm not just talking about things like this piece of literature was written in so and so a time and this sheds light on this, that and the other. But rather in a whole host of different ways. Most obviously how a texts interacts with modes of production etc. but also some interesting use that parallels, I think, some strands of reception history, namely those which do not seek 'true' readings of a text but how various historical events are received and adapted etc. An example of this was the titleless paper by Seamus Deane. It was a good decision to leave it titleless as it spanned all sorts of areas. One of many areas was the sinking of the Lusitania the event which supposedly brought the US into WWI and how this was received (or not) in different texts.
Biblical studies often drifts into 'literature' or 'history' (not mutually exclusive I know) whereas this just wasn't entertained as is pretty typical of materialistic reading. There are many reasons for this tied up with the history of the discipline but it will be interesting to see if materialistic readings of non-liberation theological type will take off in biblical studies (R. Boer's Marxist Reading of the Bible or something like that is an obvious recent example and I know Jorunn Økland, also present, is doing some work along these lines). It is a very distinctive tradition outside biblical studies but its almost inevitable critique of texts and ideology will make its reception in biblical studies (and NT in particular) interesting viewing.
Although the 'literary' and 'cultural' elements were dominant (it was an Eagleton conference after all), there was some of the more typically 'historical' in one little debate that got sparked off involving deprevation and causal factors involved in historical change. It was the kind of debate I'd like to see happen more in studies of Xn origins.
There was of course the typically more 'historical' Alex Callinicos who made some comparisions with the left-Catholic theologian H. McCabe and the concept of revolution in Marxism and revolution in relation to overcoming death. In strands of Marxist tradition he noted that the finitude demands this worldly transformation. He also added more of his general critique of postmodernism.
Ah, there was loads at the conference and it is too much too think I'm going to summarise everything. In general what is particularly useful about going to such conferences is a reminder of a different way of thinking to biblical studies and that's no bad thing.
I hate to say this but I missed the last session which would have been particularly relevant you might think but I, erm, went to watch the football. Pre-Rooney's sending off that was a very, very boring game.