I have a Master’s thesis due in just a few short months. I will be using a paper written for class and expounding upon it for such a work, with hopes of using it to either write a book which single-handly changes the course of all biblical studies and theology while netting me millions of dollars with which I will promptly retire and become a recluse on a beach somewhere or, if that is not the case, to push me into doctoral work. My thesis, and thus my area of study for the rest of my life, will be on the Gospel of Mark as understood through rhetorical criticism. My focus for this thesis will be Mark 5.1-20. As such, I am going the Evangelist’s writing style against the Age’s rhetorical styles, namely, mimesis. To that end, I bought a book. Several as a matter of fact. To keep my thoughts and to implore you for help, I am going to post interactions with these books from time to time.
The first one up is Mimesis, The New Critical Idiom, by ]].The kindle version is a little wonky, but the reason I chose Kindle is because it allows me to highlight and and keep notes on those highlights. I’m not sure if I will go full-bore Kindle or not, but this is a test case. The product description is:
A topic that has become increasingly central to the study of art, performance and literature, the term mimesis has long been used to refer to the relationship between an image and its ‘real’ original. However, recent theorists have extended the concept, highlighting new perspectives on key concerns, such as the nature of identity.
Matt Potolsky presents a clear introduction to this potentially daunting concept, examining:
- the foundations of mimetic theory in ancient philosophy, from Plato to Aristotle
- three key versions of mimesis: imitatio or rhetorical imitation, theatre and theatricality, and artistic realism
- the position of mimesis in modern theories of identity and culture, through theorists such as Freud, Lacan, Girard and Baudrillard
- the possible future of mimetic theory in the concept of ‘memes’, which connects evolutionary biology and theories of cultural reproduction.
A multidisciplinary study of a term rapidly returning to the forefront of contemporary theory, Mimesis is a welcome guide for readers in such fields as literature, performance and cultural studies.
I’m not so concerned with later uses of it, but I am interested first in the history and early use which seemingly expanded Plato’s understanding of it. While we are talking about its identification several centuries before the Gospel writers, Rome only later came to use it (if I have my facts straight) around the turn of the first century CE, right in time for the Mark to have employed it. So, for my thesis, the first two points seem relevant, although I cannot not finish a book.
So what is mimesis? According to Potolsky, it is the “relationship between artistic images and reality” and yet, he goes on to now that translations and interpretations fail to note the complexity of the concept and the traditions surrounding it. (p1) (The author cites another work, by Gebauer and Wulf in which those authors ask, “What is the relation between the representational and the represented work?”) In my opinion, to cast mimesis as a simple reproduction, especially in the ancient times, is to dismiss the use of this rhetorical style as a viable means of communication. Moving from Plato to Aristotle, the author notes that the ancients believed that mimesis is only effective if it resonates with the ‘basic cognitive operations.’ How does this work? I would suppose that this is the use of words or imagery to trigger a ‘real’ memory in the mind of the audience. Here, we factor in mnemonic faculties which the orator is trying to reach, to ignite by mimesis.
Building on this, Potolsky cites as the source of mimesis the faithfulness to convention, not to nature. Again, I draw make my previous work in citing that Mark used the conventions of history and propaganda to tell the Gospel story which reached the senses of the oppressed people in that area. I am not too far off as the author notes that the “conventionalist account makes mimesis radically dependent on the social and historical context.” Exactly, which is why in taking Mark 5 next Vespasian, we get mimesis.
]] and ]] are just a few of those who are using this style in exploring biblical studies. Potolsky notes that the theories behind mimesis are often tied exclusively to Plato and Aristotle with few in recent times wanting to explore it. That at once frightens me and puts a smile on my face because there are only a few to argue with and their are only a few to argue with.
Finally, I note that Plato and Aristotle saw the concept differently. Plato hated it, it seems, seeing it as a potential corruption of reality. The later saw as a foundational aspect of human nature (p6).
Well, that was the introductions.