Monday, December 14, 2015

A "Day Off" from Grading to work on the Book

A "Day Off" from Grading

I got the above comic from via James F McGrath's Exploring our Matrix. It reflects the "time off" I took from grading final exams, papers, projects, journals, etc. and worked on cutting the last two chapters of the book to the word counts they should be (I received much help from my editor, Bryan Dyer). Unfortunately, the time "off," unlike in the comic, required a lot of "mental effort." 

I cut Chapter 4 from 20438 words to 17523 words and Chapter 5 from 22752 words to 19870. All five chapters are now under 20,000 words, which was the main goal, although I do need to go back and add a short paragraph at the end of several of the 50+ sections to help tie some things together. Then I will finish the "glossary" of the parables for the end of the book, write the concluding chapter, and work on details such as images, etc. But first I have a lot more grading to do. The last set of papers arrives Wednesday by noon.

I also should start thanking people who read through sections of the book. I'll start with my colleagues in the Department of Religion at Oxford College/Emory: Dr. Eve Mullen, who is a specialist in Asian religious traditions, especially Buddhism, read through the section on Thich Nhat Hanh and the parables. Dr. Florian Pohl, who is a specialist in Western religious traditions, especially Islam, read through the section on the Sahih al-Bukhari and the parables. Both Eve and Florian provided helpful insights that will improve the book, and I am grateful to them.

Much of the material I cut from the manuscript involved the historical context of the people who interpreted the parables. I thought it would be good to give an example of the type of thing that was trimmed. In the context of explaining the art and thought of Thomas Hart Benton, for example, I included the following in a discussion to his approach to art and his "Regionalism":
Although a 1934 issue of Time magazine celebrated Benton and his work as an example of “new American art,” his art was attacked as provincial by many art critics and other artists. Some critics thought his works were sentimental caricatures or cartoon-like (Wolff 2012: 197). Benton himself cites criticisms of his work that called it “tabloid art” or accused it of “degrading America” (1983: 248). Yet for many people in the United States, especially in the late 1920s and 1930s, Benton “spoke their language, painted their lives, and believed wholeheartedly in the significance of their experiences.” President Harry Truman, for example, called his fellow Missourian not only “the best damned painter in America” but also “the greatest artist of this century” (Wolff 2012: 4-11, 13). The art historian Marilyn Stokstad favorably compares Benton to El Greco, saying that Benton “transplanted El Greco’s visionary style to the Ozarks” and “reformed the Mannerist style to tell the story” of the United States (1980: 34).
Such information is both interesting and important for an in-depth study, but unfortunately had to be cut for an introductory textbook such as this one on the reception history of the parables. I was able to include it, however, in a paper I gave at the Centre for Reception History of the Bible at the University of Oxford, so the research and writing was not done in vain (thank you Christine Joynes for the invitation!).

Next up, as I promised last time, is Elsa Tamez and the parables.

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