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Emma England, University of Amsterdam, Holland‘Hide and Seek with Noah’, or How to Find God in the Flood Story for Children: A Case Study in the Reception and Recreation of a Biblical Text (45 mins)
By looking at various retellings of the Flood Story (Gen.6:1-9:19) published for children I aim to demonstrate how the character of God has been appropriated to meet the apparent needs of the producers and consumers of the text. This will focus our gaze on the multiplicity of ways we choose to read and can read the character. By doing so I aim to demonstrate the significance we must place on reading children’s literature within the field of biblical studies. An analysis of the retellings reveals how God has become a less significant character than Noah, even though Noah is silent in the Genesis narrative while God makes ten direct speeches. I will present numerous texts including those where God is denied a voice and a physical appearance, where God speaks but is not described or illustrated, the illustrated God, the human belief in the absent God, as well as the total absence of God. The texts will be drawn from English publications from the religious and secular publishing trades, illustrating that in today’s Western world the Genesis Flood Story has been swallowed by the dominant cultural text that is ‘Noah’s Ark’.
William John Lyons, University of Bristol, UKA Comparative Study of Two ‘Apocalypses’ and Their Respective Chains of Tradition, or Why Johnny Cash is a Better Exegete than John of Patmos! (35 mins)
Johnny Cash’s description of his 2002 song, The Man Comes Around (from his American IV album), as being ‘based, loosely’ on the Apocalypse of John is in fact a considerable understatement. The song quotes verbatim from that and other biblical texts, echoes a number of its most important apocalyptic motifs, and effectively moulds John of Patmos’ material into a functional, available, and culturally significant ‘mini-Apocalypse’. The formal relationship between the song and its ‘parent’ texts and Cash’s own characterisation of his role in mediating between the two are first briefly examined. The paper then analyses the ongoing impact of the book of Revelation – as mediated through the song and its first significant soundtrack outing in Zack Snyder’s zombie film, Dawn of the Dead (2004). The origin and development of this modern apocalypse and its chain of tradition is then compared with scholarly proposals about the origin, development, and reception of the ‘major apocalypse’ that is the Book of Revelation, before the paper concludes by asking—and perhaps even answering—the question of which of the two is the best exegete, John of Patmos or Johnny Cash!
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Break (10 mins)
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James Crossley, University of Sheffield, UKBlack Monks or Hip Priests? Using Biblical and Religious Language in the Manchester Alternative Music Scene, 1977-1994 (40 mins)
The city of Manchester between the late 1970s and the early 1990s is frequently regarded as a major UK centre for alternative music, boasting bands such as The Fall, Buzzcocks, Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, 808 State, Happy Mondays, and Stone Roses, the record label Factory Records, charismatic figures such as Tony Wilson, a major club in The Hacienda, and prominent figures in influential music scenes such as post-punk and acid/rave. While there is increasing intellectual attention paid to this place and period in the history of popular music, it is rarely noted that there was a constant and creative use of the Bible, biblical texts, and religious imagery throughout. Moreover, this use of Bible and religion is notably different between the late 1970s and early 1990s, from being used in the name of dark introspection, cynical observation, nihilism and pessimism to being used in the name of self-congratulation, self-importance and (largely misguided) optimism. This paper will look at the different and diverse reasons for this stark shift by looking at, for instance, the dominant personalities, musical experimentation and trends, changes in drug use, the influence of Thatcherism, the increasing lure of mainstream popular culture, and the changing cityscape of Manchester.
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J. Mark Blackwell, Francis Marion University, USAA Tale of Two Cities, a Tale of Two Lots: Robert Hunter, The Grateful Dead, and a Song of “Gomorrah” (40 mins)
From 1965-1995, the legendary Grateful Dead were a San Francisco-based band and support community who became known and remembered for their unique musical approaches. They fused root elements of bluegrass, folk, gospel, Negro spirituals, rock and roll, blues, jazz, and country and western into their sound. Of course, the Grateful Dead were most famous for their live performances that featured long instrumental improvisations, and this feature has resulted in them being dubbed “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world”. Guitarist Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter collaborated to produce the majority of songs in the Grateful Dead catalogue, as well as music for its spin-off groups, which include the Jerry Garcia Band. Hunter’s lyrics frequently turn upon biblical phrases and imagery, and the Bible influences his writing more than any other religious instrument or heritage. “Gomorrah” first appeared on the Jerry Garcia Band three-year album project “Cats Under the Stars” (1978) as a re-telling of the Gen. Ch. 19 narrative. Blair Jackson, in his 1999 biography Garcia: An American Life, describes the song as “a Sunday school parable (with a dash of irony delivered by the Reverend Garcia).” This paper will investigate Hunter’s reading of the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative by (a) briefly reviewing the general arguments about Lot from interpretation histories on Gen. Ch. 19 and 2 Pet. Ch. 2, (b) considering a place for “Gomorrah” in that history and (c) examining the cultural scenes and social influences surrounding San Francisco’s sexual revolution in the mid-1970s. The conclusion will comment on irony in Hunter’s “Gomorrah” and suggest how his reading addresses the figure of Lot in broader cultural discussions.
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Discussion of music papers (10 mins)