This time with that dodgy ‘literary’ award known hereabouts as the Miles Franklin. With yet another all-male shortlist, a ‘sausage-fest’ is being mooted:

“Another ‘sausagefest’,” literary blogger Angela Meyer wrote on Twitter when the short list was announced in Sydney, a reference to the controversial 2009 Miles Franklin when five male writers fought out the prize, with Tim Winton prevailing.

“At least it won’t cost much to change the letterhead from Miles to Males,” quipped the award-winning novelist Sonya Hartnett.

And on Facebook, novelist and former Meanjin editor Sophie Cunningham chimed in with: “I meant to write myself a novel that would be a Miles Franklin contender today, but then I got my period, so I didn’t.”

(ht jg)

At long last, my mother is a regular reader of my blog (and not an occasional reader, as before, even with Jim West’s open letter). You see, one of my nephews thought it was high time she had proper internet access. So what did she do? She went and spent an hour or so tracking back through my blog. And what did she read? ‘Too Many Dicks at the Writing Desk, or, How to Organise a Prophetic Sausage Fest’. Of course, I was visiting her today too, so you can imagine how our discussion went. But I am not one to back down, and sought to explain why it is not purely 14-year old porn. Or, if it is, then so is Ezekiel … Which she seemed to accept, reluctantly. All the same, as I left, she said, ‘don’t post smut on your blog, Roland, and keep your language clean’.

Welcome mum.

That paper was finally delivered today to a someone puzzled, occasionally tittering and possibly titillated audience, if I may say so with shameless self-promotion. However, there were two highlights in the discussion that followed.

The first came from a fellow presenter, who passed me a note regarding Hosea 4:12, which reads: ‘a diviner’s rod speaks to them’. Is it a reference to a penis?

The second was the concluding question of the session, directed at me by none other than the biblical historian Lester Grabbe, there with his stick. A little earlier I had been expounding on Ezekiel 2-3, in which the prophet eats a phallic scroll covered in words and writing, held out by a mysterious hand, a scroll which was unexpectedly sweet to the taste. I argued that this text may well be read as a reference to auto-fellatio (full section here), backed up by an image of the moment of creation from Heliopolis in which the god sucks himself off.

Now Lester is a really nice bloke, 60-something and an interesting scholar, if somewhat traditional in that strange English way. Lester began by referring to a Monty Python skit in which a man in a raincoat turns up and takes a bit of this and bit of that (I haven’t seen the skit, I must admit) according to his fantasy. Aren’t you, Lester asked, doing a similar thing, picking up bits and pieces and constructing something that is not there (prophetic pen(ise)s and auto-fellatio). In other words, he went on, when Ezekiel 2-3 refers to a hand holding a scroll, might it not be just a hand and not a euphemism for a penis? For as Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

So I replied: in other words, you are accusing me of a little too much eisegesis?

You put the words right in my mouth, said Lester.

That is, I must admit, not an image – of Lester and me – one would like to entertain for too long as one drifts off to sleep.

Having just sombred the crowd at the Historical Materialism conference with my paper on ‘Marxism and Death’, I now realise it marked the beginning of conference silly season. Next is the Society of Biblical Literature, with four papers (I had forgotten about one until recently). So, in a moment of shameless self-promotion, here they are:

S20-223

Ideological Criticism
11/20/2010
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Spring – Hyatt Regency

Theme: Book Review: James Crossley, Jesus in an Age of Terror (Equinox, 2008)

Randall Reed, Appalachian State University, Presiding
Mark Goodacre, Duke University, Panelist (25 min)
Zeba Crook, Carleton University, Panelist (25 min)
William Arnal, University of Regina, Panelist (25 min)
Roland Boer, University of Newcastle, Australia, Panelist (25 min)
James Crossley, University of Sheffield, Respondent (30 min)


S20-330

Prophetic Texts and Their Ancient Contexts
11/20/2010
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Inman – Hyatt Regency

Theme: Prophecy and Gender in the Bible and Beyond

Jonathan Stökl, University of Cambridge, Presiding
Roland Boer, University of Newcastle – Australia
Too Many Dicks at the Writing Desk, or, How to Organise a Prophetic Sausage-Fest (15 min)
Dale Launderville, Saint John’s University
Gender, Purity, and Power in Ezekiel’s Priestly Vision (15 min)
Corrine Carvalho, University of Saint Thomas
Prophecy and the Single Man: Marital Status and Gender in Jeremiah and Ezekiel (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)
Esther Hamori, Union Theological Seminary
Women and Divination in Biblical Narrative (15 min)
Martti Nissinen, University of Helsinki
Gender and Prophetic Agency in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean (15 min)
Ilona Zsolnay, University of Pennsylvania
Can the Masculine Mesopotamian King be a Feminine Vessel? (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)

The papers will be summarized, not read. The full text of the papers is available for those subscribed to the list ptac-group@mailman.srv.ualberta.ca. To subscribe to the list, go to http://www.mailman.srv.ualberta.ca/mailman/listinfo/ptac-group.


S22-116

Hebrew Bible and Political Theory/Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah
Joint Session With: Hebrew Bible and Political Theory, Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah
11/22/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: International 1 – Marriott Marquis

Theme: Ezra-Nehemiah Through the Lens of Political Theory

Joshua Berman, Bar Ilan University, Presiding
Richard Bautch, Saint Edward’s University
Between Nationalism and Sectarianism: Political Identity in Ezra and Nehemiah (30 min)
Kyong-Jin Lee, Spring Arbor University
“The Law of your God and the Law of the King” in the Political Structure of the Achaemenid Empire (30 min)
Roland Boer, University of Newcastle – Australia
Subjectivity and Class in Ezra-Nehemiah (30 min)
Steven Schweitzer, Bethany Theological Seminary
Reading Utopia in Ezra-Nehemiah (30 min)


S23-123

New Unit Planning Session: Economics in the Biblical World
11/23/2010
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Lenox – Hyatt Regency

Theme: Problems and Prospects

Samuel Adams, Union Presbyterian Seminary, Presiding
Roland Boer, University of Newcastle
Economic Theory (35 min)
Roger S. Nam, George Fox University
Trade and Commerce (15 min)
Richard A. Horsley, University of Massachusetts
Second Temple Period (15 min)
Samuel Adams, Union Presbyterian Seminary
Family Life (15 min)
Catherine Murphy, Santa Clara University
Dead Sea Scrolls (15 min)
Break (10 min)
Business Meeting (45 min)

(ht to WJL)

Forget the miniscule sausages on the printfektion stuff Deane Galbraith has been peddling, Zazzle has an impressive range of big, juicy sausages in many, many different forms. You might try the simple butcher sausage for starters or perhaps the silly sausage.  A little more risqué, bound to give the powers that be at SBL a few nervous twitches, is the black banger, or perhaps the eggs and sausage.

But my favourite and the one I’ll be wearing at SBL is: Ain’t no fest like a sausage fest!

I kid you not: the stars and intestinal tubes of various dead animals have aligned:

One of the most popular events on the food calendar, British Sausage Week is embraced by chefs, retailers and consumers alike and this year looks to be no different, with a high profile programme of activity planned to run from 1 to 7 November 2010.

Only in England … or maybe Germany. As one of the promoters in Leeds said:

We are proud to be a ‘speciality house’ with a dedicated menu for the Great British Classic, sausages! Our sausage menu is quite extensive and holds 10 different varieties.

Unlike the SBL, it seems.

Last Friday, when the whole sausage-fest fiasco was settling down and my paper on prophetic dicks was once again cleared to go ahead, I was asked by a friend: why I had posted on my blog the initial email message from the director of programs, Charlie Haws? Would it not have been better to take up the issue inside the Society, targeting key people, winning over the new administration (both John Kutsko and Charlie Haws are new to their jobs), instead of pissing them off? Surely that is a far better way to effect change.

The question forced me to think about why I had taken that approach, which had at the time seemed like the obvious thing to do. So this is my reply to that initial question.

To begin with, I never quite took what was happening seriously. But I did not ridicule or caricature the original message. In fact, I kept the whole business low-key: the content of the thing was enough. But the key issue is that I am not interested in bringing about change, since I simply don’t give a flying fuck as to what happens to the SBL. But do I not want to bring about change? Am I not a revolutionary in some sense?

Yes, I am and therefore I am not a reformer, wanting to bring about change from within. Too many bitter people spend their time in retirement cursing those with whom they worked, the institution they served with such faithfulness, the hopes they held for change. I think of the feminist biblical scholar who retired early on a tide of ill-will, leaving a phallo-centric system as entrenched as ever. Or of an old minister who was once my boss, wondering whether all he had done was useless since the church had since gone precisely in the direction he hoped it wouldn’t. Ihave been in both church and university: both institutions expect commitment and devotion to a vocation; both will spit you out and trample on you at a moment’s notice without any concern for your own wellbeing.

So also the SBL, which behaves very much like a church – probably because most of its members belong to or have belonged to a church. Witness the increasing debate concerning a perceived conservative takeover, the crude and cruder arguments about critical or faith-based scholarship – they are simply the old ecclesial struggles between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ transposed into the SBL. For that reason they do not interest me.

The delicious paradox is that the SBL has been extremely important as one of the avenues for opening up opportunities, facilitating networks, publishing some of my work, enabling me to meet people I would not have met otherwise. I have been a chair of program units, worked in steering committees, sat on publishing boards. I appreciate that. But it is by no means my only location, I will certainly not waste my time pushing for reform, and I will not lose sleep over what happens to it.

… although one may well suspect they never really left that world of fantasy. Zeitgeist Spam has woven parts of the story into his/her own narrative, or rather poem, called ‘In the House of the Hangman, 245′. I quote in part:

So be it. “So it goes…”  Only the implacable gravitational expansion will continue, driven by the currently inexplicable force called

‘dark energy’, which will keep pushing the extinguished universe deeper and deeper into an eternal and unfathomable blackness. So be it. But in the meantime … I just received this, um, rather astonishing email from Charlie Haws, Manager of Programs at the SBL. Please tell me it’s spam. Dear Professor: Even though so near to the meeting, I am writing you about the title of your paper in the Prophetic Texts and Their Ancient Contexts session S20-330, “Too Many Dicks on the Threshing Floor, or, How to Organise a Prophetic Sausage-Fest.” It is the first Annual Meeting presentation to use the word “sausage,” to my knowledge, and indeed a little controversially. I appreciate the gendered paronomasia in the first portion of the sentence, but it has come to my attention that the second part of the sentence is offensive to some. To be clear, it is only the last phrase “sausage-fest” that has been taken as gratuitous. Would you consider revising the title to something like “Too Many Prophetic Dicks at the Writing Desk” or “Too Many Dicks at the Prophetic Writing Desk”? How about Ba-donk-a-donk? In fact, “favorite Platonic dialogue” is probably the philosophical equivalent of zodiac signs. You have the Timaeus people, who are generally either hipster vitalists or colorful antiquarians. You have plenty of Republic people, and they could be of all different types because there’s so much in it. You have the Sophist people, who tend to be grave ontologists with beards. What other types

are there? Symposium people. Right. It may even be my second favorite. I’m a Meno with Symposium rising. “On the nose, this explodes with intense aromas of freshly sliced granadilla joined by notes of lemon curd. Hints of geranium and just mowed lawn, with suggestions of asparagus braised with tarragon, rise from the glass to add intrigue and complexity to the top notes.” There is a metal chord struck, it means something. You grow a perfect valve. Say you meet those people constantly and care for them as strangers. You can tape your foot to a padded carpet and you can bash your fingers into the plastic desk like an interjective mist projecting heated spores from Andromeda. People are barbers. People are barbers. The easy allure of frozen pizza never ends. What’s easy? Nothing. Everything. Horses wonder who you are. If you take people there for the first time they often remark, “I love the angel wings.” And you would think there would be angel wings because it’s a church. But no, they’re actually stone-carved tree branches and fronds, their delicate leaves poised for flight. The finger in the aerosol spray stops the rise of the amoebas           they devolve into human hands           so splendorous blood spurts out from between the broken pieces            now he feels the need to carry a heavy object. Everybody has one missing piece. Heaven? What’s heaven? Can we clean it up? Not really. The background is a colorful PROCESS shot. Switching phones, I look up. “Into the basket, Musette!” You and the gyrostats. And the glorious heat from the Minoan candles … when the wind gusts, the leafless acacia bushes thrash about as if possessed and flatten themselves to the road.

[Note: Sources: JBR; Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five; Fabio Gironi, and Ray Brassier, as quoted by Gironi, in his “Science-Laden Theory: Outlines of an Unsettled Alliance”, in Speculations 1, at Speculations; Roland Boer, “SBL censorship: ‘Sausage-fests’ are unacceptable”, at Stalin’s Moustache, 23 Oct 010, via Mikhail Emelianov, “Society of Biblical Literature: No Sausage-Fest Allowed?”, at Perverse Egalitarianism, 23 Oct 010; Dicktionary: a list of penis euphemisms, at Gregology.net; Graham Harman, “speaking of favorite Platonic dialogues”, at Object-Oriented Philosophy, 23 Oct 010; anonymous, “blurb exuberance”, at ursprache, 20 Oct 010. From here through Dana Ward I sampled Con/Crescent 2 (eds. Nicholas A. DeBoer & J Townsend) via Thom Donovan, “Con/Crescent # 2”, at Wild Horses of Fire, 22 Oct 010; Nicholas A. DeBoer & J Townsend, “AN EDITOR'S NOTE”; Denise Dooley, “A NIGHT OF PASSIONATE KAROAKE IN TWO DIFFERENT BARS BROUGHT ABOUT A SERIES OF PROFOUND THOUGHTS HERE THEY ARE FOR YOU SINCERELY FROM DENISE DOOLEY”; Greg Bem, “UNSOUND: MEMORIES OF SOUND”; Will Alexander, Exobiology as Goddess, as quoted in Travis Cebula, “WILL ALEXANDER IN THE AETHER”; Dana Ward, “IT’S SO EASY”. CA Conrad, and Eileen Myles, on my way, as quoted in Conrad’s “Eileen Myles: Clothed In Nature With An Open Ear”, at Ratapallax 1; Yoshioka Minoru, “A Comedy”, in Eric Selland “Yoshioka Minoru: Prose Poems from Monks (1958) (tr. Eric Selland)”, at The New Modernism: Japanese Modernist & Avant-Garde Poetry, Translations, Explorations, 15 Oct 010; Jaymi Heimbuch, “The Pacific Garbage Patch Explained -- New Updates. Everything You Need to Know to Make It Go Away”, at Planet Green, 9 Jul 010; Jack Kimball, untitled poem/posts, at pantaloons, 20 & 22 Oct 010; line from some old (Disney?) animated film, undoubtedly misremembered, because nothing shows up on Google …; Boris Pasternak, Dr Zhivago (trs. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)]

I have it from the man himself, John Kutsko, the executive director of the Society of Biblical Literature, that the sausage carnival will proceed. John writes that he is persuaded by me ‘that the title is not simply gratuitous, but serves to make your point, express your thesis, and push boundaries’. Lots of pushing of points and so on …

The details, should you happen to be in Atlanta:

S20-330


Prophetic Texts and Their Ancient Contexts
11/20/2010
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Inman – Hyatt Regency (Atlanta)

Theme: Prophecy and Gender in the Bible and Beyond

Jonathan Stökl, University of Cambridge, Presiding
Roland Boer, University of Newcastle – Australia
Too Many Dicks at the Writing Desk, or, How to Organise a Prophetic Sausage-Fest (15 min)
Dale Launderville, Saint John’s University
Gender, Purity, and Power in Ezekiel’s Priestly Vision (15 min)
Corrine Carvalho, University of Saint Thomas
Prophecy and the Single Man: Marital Status and Gender in Jeremiah and Ezekiel (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)
Esther Hamori, Union Theological Seminary
Women and Divination in Biblical Narrative (15 min)
Martti Nissinen, University of Helsinki
Gender and Prophetic Agency in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean (15 min)
Ilona Zsolnay, University of Pennsylvania
Can the Masculine Mesopotamian King be a Feminine Vessel? (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)

The papers will be summarized, not read. The full text of the papers is available for those subscribed to the list ptac-group@mailman.srv.ualberta.ca. To subscribe to the list, go to http://www.mailman.srv.ualberta.ca/mailman/listinfo/ptac-group.

For those who don’t want to join the PTAC group, you can simply access the full paper at scribd.