Monday, March 21, 2011

Open Thread for Kermode (chapters 1-2) & the Gospel of Mark, and notes


  1. You have now done three drafts, which means that your next assignment is your second revision.  Therefore, like last time, there will be no new assignment due this week; you should begin working on your revision instead.
  2. To this end, we should probably go through a student essay or two in class.  If you would like us to talk about one of yours, send me a link!  Otherwise, I'll chose one (or two).
  3. Remember to bring Moby-Dick to class along with Kermode and either a complete Bible or, at least, a copy of the text of Mark.


  1. As I began reading the gospel of Mark, I skimmed over the section entitled "Relation to Other Gospels". I found it interesting because it was suggested that Mark was a foundational gospel for the other three. The gospels, in my opinion, are the most interesting pieces of the bible, detailing the life of Jesus in four different manners, however all relaying the same basic story. Mark's style while writing is simple and straightforward, something that the Old Testament surely lacks.

    The one question that I am concerned with is the genre of the gospels. Fiction or nonfiction? It falls under the nonfictional category in the sense that we known that Jesus was indeed a living person. However, is their validity in what is being suggested regarding this mans miracles? If Mark was a basis for the remaining three gospels, could it not just be an overdramatized story?

  2. I'm confused with the use of the term Son of Man to describe Jesus. I took a class on Judaism last semester, and we discussed that the term Son of Man used by Hebrew sources implies a divinity... but I'm not too sure this applies to the Gospel of Mark, so I'm left entirely clueless as to how to interpret this term.

  3. I got a little confused and accidently read Bartleby instead of Kermode. In the interest of turning this in on time, I’ll just write about the chapter of Kermode I’ve read so far, and then finish the second chapter for tomorrow.
    I had a lot of trouble understanding what Kermode was trying to say. I sort of understood the connection between Party Going and the god Hermes, but I’m not 100% sure I understood what this topic has to do with the general topic of the book. I understand that it has to do with interpretation, but I don’t like that he used such an extended example to get to the point. I also didn’t really understand his discussion of the Bible. What connection is he making between the New and Old Testaments? What does this have to do with the topic of interpretation?
    On the other hand, I actually enjoyed reading the Gospel of Mark more than I thought it would. I thought the parables were interesting, and I especially liked the parable of the sower. It really gave me a new perspective on the novel The Parable of the Sower. I’ve heard most of the other parables before, just never read them directly our of the Bible, but I had never really heard the parable of the sower. I thought it was a nice metaphor for how most people actually take religion.

  4. I find the book of mark interesting in that it seems to explain so much about Jesus in so little time. I've taken various religious studies classes and there seems to be a rather large amount of controversy amongst scholars as to who actually wrote the three gospels. I'm interested to know if their authorship even matters in the context of their purpose. Is who wrote Mark as important as the book of Mark?

  5. When I first started reading Kermode, I was enjoying what I considered to be a slightly less complicated version of Marcuse. The “Party Going” references were light and interesting, and I felt like maybe Kermode was trying to be a little funny. One line in particular made me actually laugh out loud: “Now Green –or Yorke, for that was his real name, and we are getting personal” (Kermode 13). My positive outlook on this book went south as soon as Kermode started mentioning all the religious stuff. I guess I should have seen this coming, considering we are reading the Gospel of Mark along with the Genesis of Secrecy, but I didn’t expect this book to be so much about religion. Or maybe I didn’t want it to be. I’m not fond of religious reading, so this book has not become one of my favorite so far. I have not read The Gospel of Mark because I’m saving it for tomorrow (prolonging the inevitable) but I can only imagine what that will be like, considering just reading quotes from it in Kermode’s book doesn’t sit well with me. A little bit of religion is fine (I really liked “Parable of the Sower”), but when the focus is solely on religion, I become disinterested immediately. I guess these new works of literature are just really not my cup of tea.

  6. I like reading the Genesis of Secrecy. I really like how it will break down an idea all the way down until you possibly can't go any farther. I also like how it will look at many different view points for a single idea and how it can be interpreted. I have questions on the insiders and the outsiders. I am just a little confused as to who is exactly considered who. Another thing that kept crossing my mind while Parable of the Sower was being talked about was obviously Butler's novel. I would just like to understand the meaning behind the title of her novel and how it relates to the Parabel of the Sower in the Bible. Just a random side note is that I wish I understood religion a little better because I think it would eliminate probably all of my confusion I'm having.

  7. Obviously "The Genesis of Secrecy" should be used to aid with our interpretation of the Gospel of Mark, as well as other writings. Additionally, I believe that the "Genesis of secrecy" will be highly valuable as we explore further meanings in "Moby Dick". After reading Kermode's first two chapters I believe that I have a better grasp on what he calls the "art of interpretation" or "hermeneutics"; To apply this understanding to Moby Dick, I now realize why I had such a difficult time with interpretation in the earlier parts of the novel whereas my understanding was strengthened during the latter parts of the novel--according to Kermode, "without some fore-understanding of the whole we can make no sense of the of the part; and our fore-understanding of the whole is largely constructed from our present understanding of the part" (5).
    After reading "Moby Dick" I believe that Melville intended to use parables in the novel. Kermode defines a parable as "a similitude, a comparison, or an analogy" (23). Based on this definition, I believe that "Moby Dick" was filled with various parables, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God" (23).

  8. Wow so I wrote a really great response and the blogger "couldn't process my request"

    So here's a much less enthusiastic post.

    I really like Kermode. He made me want to read Party Going and look for the implications he made. The debate between "hani" and "hoti" is incredible and should be made more apparent to more people (that read the Bible). The fact is, that word determines who goes to Hell and doesn't - and Jesus called his disciples stupid, so my day was made.

    On a more technical level, why do I hate Kermode's writing style? And why is the Bible so crudely written? It's a pillar of contemporary religion and it is so extremely simplistic.

  9. I found Kermode interesting since he is talking about the subject that I wrote my previous essay on. I have always been curious how each work can be interpreted depending on the writer's style and word choice as well as the reader's perspective. I enjoyed how Kermode broke it down but was confused at the same time with some of his examples.

    I have, honestly, never read the Bible so I was a little reluctant to pick it up. I was surprised on how short and to the point each story was. How much are we supposed to take away from it?

  10. While reading Kermode I was very interested through out the first two chapters. I point that I want to call attention to is the two paragraphs that are before he summarizes the Party Going. He is basically saying that he is going to summarizes the story but he does not simply just come out and say it. Kermode carefully explains how he does not want he summary to change someones interpritation of the novel because it is such a major part of Kermode's thinking. I think the battle between him trying to condense the novel and makink sure he does contrict himself is both interesting and clever. I think this foreshadows how the rest of his writings are going to be beacuse he puts such a huge deal of care when it comes to the interpritations others can and will create.

  11. I really enjoyed reading Kermode this week! It was an interesting perspective on the act of reading, especially being that we are in a critical reading class. I hadn't thought of interpretation as a form always based on another's interpretation; in writing a story, an author is interpretting and relaying something about the world with a particular intention, and then we as readers interpret that intention in our own ways, and each is somehow different. He places much emphasis on the difference between seeing and perceiving, and hearing but not understanding; this is an obvious indicator of his fear of the grandness of this problem — the passive reader cannot learn. And it was also interesting that he though Mark misinterpretted the parables of Jesus. Considering how heavy the bible weighs in American society, its a scary thought that christians may be living by each word in a text rich with errors/faults. One part that I was confused with comes on pg. 13, "In such writing there is created an expectation of much beautiful willfulness, and the reader must sometimes recognize it. He may thus be made to understand that his expectation of a reward for bringing the surprising into conformity with the usual is no more justified than any other bourgeois expectation of docile service, or of licit requirements assiduously satisfied." I suppose writing it helped a bit, but I would like if we went over this section a bit more.
    In the bible, I'd like to go over "The Faith of a Syrophoenician Woman" and "Jesus Predicts His Death." I don't understand how it is such a difference if the dogs eat the scraps that have dropped or if they are fed intentionally. Obviously there is a strong difference, because the children are fed, but why does Jesus suddenly love the women for her remark. This was a common theme, Jesus' loving expressions despite the simplicity of the remarks of the people he healed. Also, according to Mark the disciples seem never to understand his true purpose, despite the constant repetition of his openness to heal all. Why would Mark depict them this way? And why did Jesus choose disciples that constantly miss his messages?

  12. I'm somewhat torn about how I feel on Kermode. It's definitely refreshing after Marcuse and Melville, that goes without saying; however, I'm not sure if I enjoy the way he goes about making points. I think the Party Going example was kind of beaten to death and it was a little confusing having never read Party Going to understand the different ways to interpret.

    On the Gospel of Mark: I went to sparknotes (yes, they have sparknotes for the bible) to make sure I was understanding everything correctly, and in the intro they talked about the Gospel of Mark was originally one of the least favorite Gospels because of its lack of eloquence. When scholars found out it was most likely the first one written, it suddenly came back into fashion. I thought this was ironic considering Kermode is all about how we interpret things. Mark became important and therefore fashionable when we discovered it was the oldest, and, due to its favoritism, it came to have one of the largest impacts among all the gospels. The light in which we read something (Mark is poorly written and therefore not very important, or Mark was written the earliest and therefore has the most merit) definitely has an effect on the message we take from it.

  13. I've never been big into religion and have never actually read much of the bible, so to actually read a part of the bible (Gospel of Mark) that I realized I already know so much about (from tv, books, media, etc) was actually a bit refreshing. I now know where a large majority of these biblical references come from and the story they are referring to. A lot of the material found in the Gospel was surprisingly familiar; For example I had seen many references to Jesus feeding everyone with bread and fish in cartoons and movies.

    The Gospel as a read itself however, was a bit difficult for me. Maybe it is because I am not used to reading the bible, but I found myself having to reread many parts in order to fully grasp the idea.