Monday, September 17, 2007

Teaching Notes: Continuity Errors and Fatigue

One of the benefits of larger classes at Duke appears to be that you get a nicer, more modern classroom. Instead of Gray Building, where we in the Department of Religion normally teach, I am teaching my New Testament Introduction class in one of the classes in Westbrook, which belongs to the Divinity School. If A/V equipment is easier to use, and the class arrangement more congenial to its use, I find myself illustrating classes much more regularly. Today I wanted a little something to introduce the topic of editorial fatigue in the Synoptics. I was going through the arguments for Marcan Priority, and saving fatigue for the end. In my 1998 NTS article, I wrote:
Like continuity errors in film and television, examples of fatigue will be unconscious mistakes, small errors of detail which naturally arise in the course of constructing a narrative. (46)
It occurred to me that I could illustrate the point by pointing to a couple of continuity errors in one of my favourite TV series, Columbo. Anyone who has watched the series as often as I have will have noticed the lieutenant's cigar shrink and expand between shots, and a site rather inelegantly entitled Columbo Goofs lists dozens of similar continuity errors, including William Shatner's changing moustache. Continuity errors like these are "seams" in the film that point to the history of the construction of that film, revealing evidence of shooting schedules that we might otherwise have been ignorant of. I found it an enjoyable way of illustrating some of the seams in the Synoptics in the category of "editorial fatigue", which seem to point to Marcan Priority.


Joe Weaks said...

A convenient place to find film fatigues listed is in the "About" tab for any film on Rotten Tomatoes. said...

The fatigue argument is less convincing if it works in the opposite direction, too. Some 16 examples of fatigue in Mark relative to Matthew are given here. Six of these are of the omission type, the other ten of the commission type.

This would reinforce to the student how difficult it is to obtain clear-cut examples of the direction of redaction.

Phil Harland said...

Hello Mark,

Nice to see there's another Columbo fan out there. It's one of my favourites too (but where is the mysterious wife). My wife Cheryl claims that Quincy could outsolve Columbo, but I bawk.

In other words, I liked your analogy.