Wuppertal 2021 Call for Papers
EABS 2021 – Crisis in Oral Tradition and Mnemonic Mechanisms
Having explored orality and literacy in Pauline literature (2017), and in the Gospel of Mark (2018), the 2021 sessions will shift the focus to what may be termed the “crisis in oral tradition” at the end of the first century and the first part of the second century CE (cf. W. Kelber, “The Works of Memory: Christian Origins as MnemoHistory – A Response,” in: A. Kirk, T. Thatcher, ed., Memory, Tradition, and Text, 2005, 221–248). This period represents a key phase in the development of Christian communities, marked notably by the establishment of ministries and the writing of the last books that would later become part of the NT canon. According to J. Assmann’s model and categories (Cultural Memory and Early Civilization, trans. D.H. Wilson, 2011), this is also the period in which the so-called “floating gap” (J. Vansina, Oral Tradition as History, 1985) begins, that is, the passage from “communicative memory,” mainly oral, to “cultural memory,” materialized in authoritative texts and rites (for the application of those Assmann's categories and models to early Christianity and its results, see S. Huebenthal, “‘Frozen Moments’ – Early Christianity through the Lens of Social Memory Theory,” in: S. Butticaz, E. Norelli, ed., Memory and Memories in Early Christianity, 2018, 17–43; cf. also A. Kirk and T. Thatcher, “Jesus Tradition as Social Memory,” in: A. Kirk, T. Thatcher, ed., Memory, Tradition, and Text, 2005, 41; E. Norelli, “La notion de ‘mémoire’ nous aide-t-elle à mieux comprendre la formation du canon du Nouveau Testament?,” in : Ph.S. Alexander, J.-D. Kaestli, ed., Le canon des Écritures dans les traditions juive et chrétienne, 2007, esp. 183–94).
Paper presenters are invited to deal with the questions of how the practices of collecting, reading (or performing?) and copying texts interact with processes of constructing a sense of Christian identity and ethics, as well as the role that these practices play in the stabilising mechanisms of memory. This involves a discussion of the status of texts and manuscripts (both Jewish Scriptures and “NT” texts) in the specific context of early Christian communities, as well as addressing the issue of concrete reading practices (including which texts are read, how, by whom, and in which context). Attention will also be paid to the topic of orality and literacy in texts and testimonies dated from this time span, such as the so-called pastoral and catholic epistles, the Apostolic Fathers, or the fragments of Papias, bishop of Hierapolis. As in the previous years, the research group will have a session with invited speakers and an open session. For the open session, we encourage proposals from all the areas mentioned above.