Chris Skinner is a well-recognized expert on Gospel narrative criticism as anyone can see from his books on the right-hand side of the Peje Iesous blog and he has posted the cover of his forthcoming edited volume Character Studies and the Gospel of Mark. The contributors to this volume are all excellent scholars and this looks like a must-read for those interested in literary characterization in Mark.
Chris Skinner asks on his blog about whether William Wrede, author of the classic The Messianic Secret, anticipated narratological criticism. Although Skinner notes that scholars have rejected Wrede’s historical theory to explain all the secrecy motifs in Mark that he saw revolving around the Messianic Secret (i.e., it got around the known non-messianic preaching of Jesus by claiming that he revealed his messianic identity in secret and it was disclosed after Easter; cf. Mk 9:9), Wrede noticed that Jesus’ constant silencing of those who confess his identity or recipients of his miracles (though they often go out and tell anyways), chastising the disciples for their incredible lack of insight, and providing allegorical explanations of his parables to his disciples in private cries out for explanation. I also find it interesting that after Wrede observed how this pervasive theological secrecy theme has been imposed on the material back in 1901, form critics still thought the evangelists were mere collectors of tradition until the recovery of the author in redaction and narrative criticism. Finally, while redaction studies often view Mark as editing traditions that may have been more favourable to the Twelve in a harsher direction in picturing the dull disciples (or vice-versa), narrative criticism is concerned with the final form of the text and must hold the positive and negative features of the disciples in Mark in tension (for a criticism of the redaction-critical approach to the disciples in favour of a narrative one, see C. Clifton Black’s The Disciples According to Mark: Markan Redaction in Current Debate).
This blog has focussed on getting at the history behind the text: who wrote the Gospel of Mark, when was it written, where was it written, to whom was it written, what are its sources and how was it used as a source, what form did its oral or written traditions take before they were included in it, how did the evangelist edit the traditions, is the text a window into the life of Jesus or a mirror into the beliefs of the Christ community? But I have spent less time on literary-critical approaches that tend to bracket historical-critical questions (authorship, date, provenance), especially as our reconstructions of the “authorial intention” or the historical situation behind the text is always tentative, to closely read the text itself. This approach may be interested in the narrative techniques of the story (plot, setting, characters, point of view, etc) and how meaning is produced in the interaction between text and reader. This has also led to various ideological approaches that emphasize the reader’s own location and brought new perspectives to bear on the text, which may be a corrective to some blindspots of past interpreters who pursued different questions or helps to reveal ways the text can be read as liberating or alternatively the voices it may have marginalized or excluded. Here is a short bibliography of different literary or ideological readings of Mark (feel free to add more in the comments).
- Anderson, Janice Capel and Moore, Stephen D. Editors. Mark and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992.
- Belo, Fernando. A Materialist Reading of the Gospel of Mark. Translated by Matthew J. O’Connel. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1981.
- Best, Ernest. Mark: The Gospel as Story. Revised Edition. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000.
- Dewey, Joanna. Markan Public Debate: Literary Technique, Concentric Structure and Theology in Mark 2:1-3:6. Chicago: Scholars Press, 1980.
- Fowler, Robert. Loaves and Fishs: The Function of the Feeding Stories in the Gospel of Mark. Chicago: Scholars Press, 1981.
- Fowler, Rober M. Let the Reader Understand: Reader-Response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark. Harrisburg: Trinity, 1991.
- Gray, Timothy C. The Temple in the Gospel of Mark: A Study in Its Narrative Role. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.
- Horsley, Richard. Hearing the Whole Story: The Politics of Plot in Mark’s Gospel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001.
- Humphrey, Hugh M. ‘He is Risen!’: A New Reading of Mark’s Gospel. New York: Paulist, 1992.
- Iverson, Kelly R. and Skinner, Christopher W. Editors. Mark as Story: Retrospect and Prospect. Atlanta: SBL, 2011.
- Kingsbury, Jack Dean. Conflict in Mark: Jesus, Authorities, Disciples. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.
- Jack Dean Kingsbury, The Christology of Mark’s Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989.
- Levine, Amy-Jill. Editor. A Feminist Companion to Mark. Sheffield: Sheffield University Press, 2001.
- Liew, Tat-siong Benny. “Tyranny, Boundary and Might: Colonial Mimicry in Mark’s Gospel.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 73 (1999): 7-31.
- Politics of Parousia: Reading Mark Inter(con)textually. Biblical Interpretation Series 44; Leiden: Brill, 1999.
- Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. “Fallible Followers Women and Men m the Gospel of Mark.” Semeia 28 (1983): 29-48.
- Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. Narrative Space and Mythic Meaning in Mark. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986.
- Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. In the Company of Jesus: Characters in Mark’s Gospel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000.
- Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. Mark’s Jesus: Characterization as Narrative Christology. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009.
- Maloney, Francis J. Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004.
- Moore, Stephen D. Mark and Luke in Poststructuralist Perspectives: Jesus Begins to Write. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992.
- Moore, Stephen D. “Mark and Empire.” Pages 70-90 in Recognizing the Margins: Developments in Biblical and Theological Studies. Essays in Honor of Sean Freyne. Edited by Werner G. Jeanrond and A. D. H. Mayes. Dublin, Ireland: Columba, 2006.
- Myers, Ched. Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988.
- Myles, Robert J. “Dandy Disciples: A Queering of Mark’s Male Disciples.” Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality 4 (2010): 66-81.
- Peterson, Dwight N. The Origins of Mark: The Markan Community in Current Debate. Leiden: Brill, 2000.
- Powell, Mark Allan. “Toward a Narrative-Critical Understanding of Mark.” Interpretation 47 (1993): 341-46.
- Rhoads, David and Michie, Donald. Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982.
- Rhodes, David, Joanna Dewey, and Donald Michie. Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel. Second edition. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999.
- Smith, Stephen H. A Lion With Wings: A Narrative-Critical Approach to Mark’s Gospel. The Biblical Seminar 38. Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.
- Tannehill, Robert C. “The Disciples in Mark: The Function of a Narrative Role.” The Journal of Religion 57 (1977): 386-405
- Tolbert, Mary Ann. Sowing the Gospel: Mark’s World in a Literary-Historical Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.
- van Iersel, Bas M.F. Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary. London and New York: T&T Clark, 1998.
There is an interesting debate on the necessary tools of the trade by Larry Hurtado and BW16 (also here, here), between a traditional textual analysis with emphasis on language acquisition versus more interdisciplinary approaches and engagement with capital “T” Theory (cf. Pat McCullough’s post explaining the need for biblical scholars to engage theory). My background is a BA in a Christian Liberal Arts University College where I was introduced to most major theories of biblical studies from the Documentary Hypothesis to the New Perspective on Paul and to Hermeneutics (from the ‘hermeneutical circle to author, text or reader-based criticism). My MA at the University of Alberta was very interdisciplinary (I took classes in other religions, Anthropology, History of Historiography and Literary Study of the HB) and my advisor introduced me to the field of secular “Religious Studies” (especially social scientific approaches from Emile Durkheim to JZ Smith, Burton Mack). Now at Sheffield, since the concentration is focussed on “biblical studies,” doctoral students have the option to apply a variety of methods to the biblical text from traditional exegetical ones to newer developments in cultural studies and reception history. However, while I have posted on historical-critical effort to get behind the text (source, form, redaction), I wish I was more conversant in theory and hesitate to post on newer approaches lest I misrepresent them. A useful introduction to them as they relate to NT Mark, from narrative, reader, deconstructive, feminist or post-colonial criticism, is found in Janice Capel Anderson and Stephen D. Moore, eds., Mark and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies (2nd ed., Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008).