Friday, November 07, 2003

Mary Ann Tolbert on the crisis of creativity in Biblical Studies

One of the new articles on the SBL Forum (see previous blog entry) is an article by Mary Ann Tolbert in which she laments the current state of Graduate Biblical Studies:

Graduate Biblical Studies: Ethos and Discipline
Indeed, I think that we are on the verge of, if not in the middle of, a crisis in doctoral education in biblical studies, and it is a crisis of creativity. For a number of reasons many doctoral programs encourage preservation over creativity and safety over risk-taking. There are many factors leading to this situation, I think, including the present "conservative turn" of many religious traditions, which then tend to funnel more financial support toward conservative or ideologically supportive projects, producing what L. William Countryman has called "domesticated scholarship" and "stables of domesticated scholars." Another factor, which I would like to explore here at greater length, is certainly the internal multiplicity, perhaps even fragmentation, of the discipline itself.

Another article sounding a rather negative note and also in the current SBL Forum is by Thomas E. Philips:

Contingent Faculty and the Future of Biblical Studies

With provocative articles like these appearing, I think the lack of a forum in which SBL members can react to and engage with the views expressed is keenly felt. Some years ago, SBL experimented with an e-list called Graphai which sadly never really took off, perhaps largely from lack of focus. I'd have thought that now would be a good time to begin the experiment again. The fine-looking new web site, which is after all labelled a "forum" would be the ideal place to add in a forum in its technical sense, e.g. using the free Snitz software. If there are concerns about posting of inappropriate material, a small group of coordinators could straightforwardly moderate. At the moment, I'm not sure what the forum would be for discussing interesting articles like the one above.

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