The Power of Point of View

(quarter)YEAR in REVIEW. . .and a look ahead to a New Year of Perspective Criticism

by GARY YAMASAKI   This blog was launched three months ago, and from the beginning, it has been intended as a site for the collective development of biblical scholarship. Specifically, it exists as a venue for dialogue on the interpretive significance of the point-of-view crafting in biblical narratives. So, week after week, ideas on this topic have been posted to the site to generate discussion on this topic.

The first month was quiet in this regard. However, things started percolating at the beginning of the second month. A post exploring how attention to point of view might impact live performances of biblical passages prompted a response by biblical storyteller Leon Seaman laying out how insights on the significance of point of view in biblical narratives influence his performance of the Gospel of Mark. And this was the start of an exchange that ended up drawing in four participants, stretching through the month of December (Leon Seaman, Gary Yamasaki, Robert Tannehill, Leon Seaman, Phil Ruge-Jones); a new blog category entitled “point of view and Performance Criticism” was created to accommodate this discourse.

Another exchange has been developing around a key suggestion in the development of point-of-view theory to this point: point-of-view crafting being able to produce “empathy” for characters. This is an idea that was introduced in one of the earliest posts, and a post addressing its significance in the John 20 account of Mary at the tomb drew a challenge from Robert Tannehill. This challenge focuses mainly on the way the John 20 analysis treats the informational plane of point of view, which is also illustrated in a look at “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The questions Tannehill raises make clear that more work needs to be done on the empathy aspect of point-of-view crafting.

The spatial plane and the psychological plane of point of view have also been introduced, but there are still three other planes that have not yet been covered, the most prominent being the temporal plane. This is a topic that will be addressed early in the new year.

Film has been a significant component of the blog, as reflected in the numerous posts containing descriptions of movie scenes serving as illustrations in discussions of point-of-view dynamics operating in biblical narratives, and there is even a blog category completely dedicated to “point of view on Screen”. It should be noted that these treatments of movie scenes have been based only on a literary understanding of point of view applied to the genre of film, as opposed to an understanding of point of view coming out of film studies. However, Laura Copier, Assistant Professor of Media Studies at University of Amsterdam, will be addressing this deficiency by contributing insights on point of view from her work on film.

Another point of critique of this site’s treatment of point of view in biblical narrative is its strong continuity to the state of point-of-view theory as it stood back in the 1970s and 1980s, when the concept of point of view first came to the attention of biblical scholars. However, this literary concept has continued to develop in the intervening decades, calling for exploration of these more recent discussions to see if they shed any light on new ways in which point-of-view crafting might be significant to the interpretation of biblical narratives, and Janice Capel Anderson will be providing a look into this recent narratology.

Besides Copier and Anderson, there are a number of other scholars slated to contribute blog posts in the coming weeks—the Perspective Criticism community continues to grow. If you are interested in joining the discourse, use the “Contact” page to send post ideas to the site administrator.

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