What have I been up to lately? Well, I hang out with this guy a lot. I finished coursework. And now I'm reading for my preliminary exams, to be taken every Thursday in October. (Please do not mention in the comments that October is only two months away, or I will have to run screaming from this blog for another year-long hiatus!)
Anyway, here's my random-thought-for-the-day-while-reading: analogy! Such a useful concept! In my neck of the scholarly woods, arguments are often made about influence ~ that one creation story influenced another, that one work of historiography is a polemical response to another, etc. These claims -- though sometimes likely, and occassionally irrefutable -- must be supported vigorously, because to argue for influence is quite difficult when one's source material is spotty, redacted, and chronologically ambiguous. However, lately I've come across an increasing number of arguments for analogy rather than influence. In other words, instead of arguing that the writer of the vision reports in Daniel had a coffee table collection of Ugaritic myths at his or her disposal, it is perhaps equally useful (and less epistomelogically problematic) to observe the analogies between them. John Collins does this in his introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic literature, to wit: "the issue is not the exact derivation but the kinds of allusions involved" (p. 19). Furthermore:
If the "one like a son of man" who comes on the clouds in Daniel 7 alludes to the Canaanite figure of Baal, this is not to say that he is idenitified as Baal, or that the full story of Baal is implied. It merely suggests that there is some analogy between this figure and the traditional conception of Baal. (emphasis mine, p. 19)My interest in allusion and analogy is related to the plausibility of what I like to call the there-was-something-in-the-air theory. Again, rather than arguing for influence, it seems more likely that, within and across certain eras (and especially between neighboring cultures), some traditions and ideas and archetypes and mythic images remain in the air, enduring for generations. Scribes and storytellers breathe these in and out; the literary evidence for this phenomenon comes to us clothed as analogy and allusion (among other things, I'm sure).
Brandon recommends reading this when prelims are done, to explore analogy in light of the findings of cognitive science. Sounds like fun to me! (Then again, reading anything that's not on my reading list sounds like fun at this point in the summer!)