Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Little More AAR

This morning, I went to this session:
A22-12 Study of Judaism Section
Tuesday - 9:00 am-11:30 am
Randi Rashkover, York College of Pennsylvania, Presiding
Theme: Jewish Thought: Culture and Curriculum

Alan Verskin, Princeton University
"Teaching Philosophy to the Multitude: The Thought of Nissim B. Moshe of Marseilles"

Ellen Haskell, Franklin & Marshall College
"Metaphor, Transformation, and Transcendence: Toward an Understanding of Kabbalistic Imagery in the Book of Zohar"

Marc Krell, University of Arizona
"The Prophetic Narrative as a Basis for Religious Socialism in Weimar Germany: Jewish and Christian Attempts to Navigate between Historicism and Dialectical Theology"

Kenneth Koltun-Fromm, Haverford College in Pennsylvania
"The Art of Writing: The Diaries of Mordechai Kaplan"

(It was actually Martin Kavka presiding.)
My original plan was to hear the first three papers and then duck out and head to another session to hear one of our graduate students. But I didn't have a chance to get a cup of coffee before hand, and I was feeling really tired, so I decided that I would just stay for the first paper since medieval philosophy and curricula are things I'm interested in. I apologized before the session began to the other panelists for needing to duck out (I left out the part about needing/wanting a cup of coffee, so if Professors Haskell and Krell read this, now I owe you both a bigger apology.) Alan Verskin's presentation of Nissim's conception of why one should teach the masses some philosophy but should certainly not yourself believe that there is any philosophical truth in scripture was compelling. Someone asked him why Nissim would write that scripture had no philosophical truths if he didn't want the masses to know this. Well, Verskin answered, it's not clear why he didn't do a better job writing this part esoterically. I think I would answer differently: Maaseh Nissim (the work in question which survives in only a couple of manuscripts and was printed for the first time only 4 or 5 years ago) was probably not intended as a philosophical textbook for the masses; rather, I would guess that it was intended as a manual for philosophically inclined preachers who could use it to prepare sermons which could inculcate some philosophy in the multitude.

Then on to the aforementioned coffee in the super-crowded Starbucks in the Marriott Philadelphia lobby. Some people reading the New York Times; some earnestly chatting; some staring into space; some staring into their bagels; some (okay one person) reading a pocket edition of the Mishnah.

And then to:
22-7 History of Christianity Section
Tuesday - 9:00 am-11:30 am
Arun W. Jones, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Presiding
Theme: East Meets West: Intra-Christian Tensions and Relationships

Jennifer C. Lane, Brigham Young University, Hawaii
"Comos and Communion: The Orthodox and the Other in Thirteenth-Century Central Asia"

Korinna Zamfir, Babes-Bolyai University
"An Overview of the Tensions Related to Mixed Matrimony in Transylvania during the Eighteenth–Twentieth Centuries"

István Keul, Free University of Berlin
"Denomination and Ethnic Affiliation in East Central Europe: Past and Present"

Brian P. Bennett, Niagara University
"Western Christianity as Other: The Discourse of "Latinism" in Russian History"

Amy A. Slagle, University of Pittsburgh
"The Internalized Other: Narrative Constructions of Ethnicity among American-Born Converts to Eastern Orthodox Christianity"

Milica Bakic-Hayden, University of Pittsburgh

I came in time for the second half of Brian Bennett's talk--interesting material on Russia's version of "Occidentialism." Amy's paper (obviously the reason I went) is part of her dissertation on converts to Eastern Orthodoxy. This talk was on her ethnographic fieldwork in an Orthodox parish (Orthodox Church of America if anyone is interested) in Pittsburgh. I am on her dissertation committee so I may be accused of bias, but it was an excellent talk. My colleage, Milica Bakic-Hayden, responded to all the papers. Milica raised an issue about Amy's paper that I was thinking about as well: how typical is Pittsburgh? Ethnicity matters a lot in Pittsburgh. I realized this shortly after moving there when I saw the bumper-sticker: "Proud Hungarian-American Democrat."


J. Levine said...

As an alum of Pitt's religion dept. and former student of the author of this blog, I am proud to see Pitt "representin'" at the AAR. Looking forward to hearing about your post-doc at UPenn.
--Jason Levine

Adam said...

Wow. Blog about urban planning in Philadelphia and people ignore you. Blog about AAR and the comments emerge. From a former student no less. A very good former student, I might add. Nice to "hear" from you, Jason.