Clearing up the Mystificationalizationalism of FPR

It has come to my attention that some of our dear readers are somewhat mystified by what we at FPR are doing.  While we are by no means a unified group, approaching texts and problems from a variety of approaches, I think that there are a few things that one must know to properly understand what we are doing.  I invite my fellow bloggers to add any items they feel needs to be said.

In my view, all you have to know, besides Ugaritic, Akkadian, Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Coptic, Japanese, Chinese (ancient and modern), Greek, Latin, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and some middle-Persian, is the historical critical method (and its critiques), exegetical theory, text criticism, hermeneutics, intertexual theory, gender studies, practice theory, ritual theory, historicism, and the history of each of these disciplines.  Oh, I almost forgot, and Mormon Studies.  It really is not that hard, and meant to be accessible to all!  I hope that clears it up.

And I hope you know I’m poking fun at us for being pedantic, boorish, often too technical, and always completely irrelevant.

  • http://thesundaypage.net jondh

    And I hope you know I’m poking fun at us for being pedantic, boorish, often too technical, and always completely irrelevant.

    And sometimes not a little snobby. Love you guys. You write great posts. But it’s true.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Ok, I am going to go out on a limb here and open myself up to criticism by invitation. I am really curious about this snob accusation. It certainly isn’t something that any of us have consciously aspired to. That said, I am not sure if I deny it, because I am not sure that I understand it. (Perhaps snobs simply aren’t able to see their own snobishness?). In any case, can someone (all of our readers?) please explain in what way we are snobs?

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com The Yellow Dart

    And let’s not forget the various stages of ancient Egyptian besides Coptic! :-)

    I think it is difficult for some to understand FPR at times because the interests and backgrounds of each of the authors here can be very diverse. From political views and agendas to educational backgrounds and intellectual influences, etc. each author has her own unique qualities, skills, and interests, and these are not always in unison with the other contributors programmes. I see this as often being a great strength for FPR, however. As stated in the post, there are few other (LDS Christian) blogs that I am aware of where these unique (peculiar? :-P ) languages and skill sets are possessed by the contributors and made available for conversation with others.

    I, for one, am no scholar (I don’t hold a single degree in anything!), so I think it is really possible for others to contribute here without feeling overwhelmed, or that they are being regarded as foolish or ignorant for participating without these same skill sets and backgrounds.

    I would also like to say that the more I have gotten to know the contributors here at FPR on a personal level, the more I have come to respect them and appreciate their efforts (even when I disagree with them or have no idea what they are talking about).

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  • http://www.newcoolthang.com/ Geoff J

    You’re not snobby TT. None of all y’all are in my experience.

    People sometimes confuse competence with snobbiness.

  • http://juvenileinstructor.org Edje Jeter

    Once again, Portugese, the language of Os Lusiadas, is slighted. For shame.

  • http://www.approachingjustice.wordpress.com Chris H.

    TYD,

    You are a scholar. Nice try.

    TT,

    I think FPR has evolved quite a bit over time, though that evolution has been marked with plenty of long pauses. It is academic, and as a result we often do stuff using theories and methods that seem strange to others (whether it is dead languages or Judith Butler)

  • http://www.approachingjustice.wordpress.com Chris H.

    BTW, describing what it is that FPR does, is something I could never do when I was at FPR. That you all defy description is part of the mystery. Keep it up.

  • MadChemist

    Read Geoff J.’s comment and tell me that’s not snobby.

  • http://www.approachingjustice.wordpress.com Chris H.

    Madchemist,

    So it is Geoff J, and not FPR, who is snobby. Thanks for clearing this all up.

  • http://www.newcoolthang.com/ Geoff J

    As I always say when the subject of me comes up (as it often does of course): There’s no charge for awesomeness.

  • SmallAxe

    There’s no charge for awesomeness.

    Enough talking. Let us fight!

  • http://thesundaypage.net jondh

    Smallaxe ~ I see you like to chew.

    MadChemist ~ chuckle

    TT ~ I’m actually kind of surprised you don’t immediately agree with me. It’s certainly not something I expected an apology for. Perhaps I need to qualify my accusation a little:
    Snobbery is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s elitism could be Geoff J’s “competence.”
    None of you FPRers are snobby all the time. In fact, at other times you’re often downright inclusive. I shall give examples.
    Not all of your FPRers are snobby. No, I won’t be pointing fingers. But I will cite a few posts.

    Take this post, for instance. I know you’re trying to to assure your readers that you’re a quirky lot and they need not fret if they feel left out. But might not this catalog of skills and specialties be read as, “It’s okay if you don’t understand us. We’re just far more educated than you!”

    Here are some other examples re-titled in the same manner:
    People who love and/or still read Nibley are living in the past.
    If you haven’t been to graduate school, go home.
    General Authorities are not erudite enough.
    Oh wait, look! At least Elder Holland is learned like us!
    I am more pious than bloggers who blog with their real names.
    Looking for parallels is garishly amateur.
    I know better than Mormon.

    Of course I exaggerate. I re-word these with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, because I agree with so much of them. Nibley himself, I like to think, would agree wholeheartedly with the first post. The rest of them make some excellent points which everyone who thinks about the LDS religion in an academic and not simply apologetic way ought to consider. Still, though, they make a break from traditional opinions and sentiments held still by many Mormons. Are you looking down your nose at those people? If not, are you looking down your nose at those ideas because they are underdeveloped, unsophisticated, or incongruous with methodologies and conceptualizations currently en vogue in the secular scholarly community? Even if you don’t mean to take those positions, it may seem that way to someone who wanders on to your blog.

    Guys, iconoclasm (in its most basic meaning) is inevitable for critics who separate themselves from the establishment or the mainstream—good intentions notwithstanding. This iconoclasm becomes elitism if critique is given for allegedly academic reasons. Despite my exaggeration of the above posts, I am more serious about what appears to be an underlying attitude in some FPR posts that Mormon culture is backward; Mormon doctrine and theology needs rethinking; modern philosophers and scholars ought to be deferred to and relied upon over more conservative authorities or scholars; and even scripture needs to be rethought in light of new academic fields of study.

    Now, many or all of these accusations may be justified. The problem is in their delivery. I don’t need to tell you that an audience of a text matters just as much as its author, and even if you refuse on principle to pander to anyone, consider your impact: how profoundly will you affect those who sorely need your insights if they continue to feel like you’re thumbing your nose at them and the things they love? If they feel this way, is it only their own fault? How effective will a professed agent for change be if he only preaches to the choir?

    Now, having said all that, I want to make it clear that FPR has changed my life. Probably literally, since if it weren’t for FPR, I would not have applied to the graduate program I was eventually accepted to. I mentioned those posts above only because they were so memorable. They frustrated me to no end and consequently caused me to think deeply about what I believed and thought. Isn’t that what education is all about? Furthermore, isn’t that what the Lord wants us to do with the intellect, however small, that He gives us? So even though FPR may be snobby at times, that could be a good thing.

    As promised, here are some FPR posts I consider especially un-snobby:
    Anyone can learn Hebrew! Here’s how.
    The Mormon doctrine of gender might be more robust than more recent trends.
    Anyone can go to graduate school (but should they?)! Here’s how.
    I’m a red-blooded American like the rest of y’all.
    We can criticize people on the Left too.
    A balanced look at Mormon pedagogy.
    The Spirit is found in the most unlikely of testimonies.
    Want to get serious with your biblical studies? Here’s how!

  • http://www.kingsxrocks.com/ FHL

    TT, you did a fine job of describing Mogget; now what about the rest of you? ;)

  • http://heartissuesforlds.wordpress.com Todd Wood

    Geoff is the man. And he never charges admission to come watch his show. I will congratulate him for that.

    On the other hand, TYD . . . I might end up paying for one of his future books or to attend one of his future lectures. We’ll wait and see.

  • http://thesundaypage.net jondh

    FWIW, I did post here trying to better explain what I meant by “snobby”, but it’s not showing up. The comment did include many links, so it might have been flagged as spam or it may have violated blog rules. However, I only linked to FPR posts in order to illustrate what I was talking about. If it’s in the spam queue, does someone want to…um…approve it? [fixed. multiple links go automatically to spam.]

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    lol. I seem to dominate the snobby examples. Maybe you’re completely right. I appreciate how much effort you put into explaining your characterization, including relevant examples. Ultimately, I am not sure what to make of it. I tend to think of myself as a Cultural Critic, but maybe another less-flattering word for that is “snob.” ‘Tis the cross I must bear because I have no other choice. :)

  • http://www.approachingjustice.wordpress.com Chris H.

    Wow, johndh, your comment #12 is some great research. Some good memories on both sides of the snobby spectrum.

    Maybe FPR-studies can become a new subfield of Mormon Studies.

    “…..in some FPR posts that Mormon culture is backward; Mormon doctrine and theology needs rethinking; modern philosophers and scholars ought to be deferred to and relied upon over more conservative authorities or scholars; and even scripture needs to be rethought in light of new academic fields of study.”

    Wow, I think you accused (or mocked) me of doing this once (in relation to one of my last FPR posts) over on your own blog.

    Really, you are observant and I think your critique does honor to FPR.

  • SmallAxe

    I see you like to chew.

    Legend tells of a legendary blog whose snobiness was the stuff of legends.

  • oudenos

    Jondh, after years of graduate school, after enduring the leading questions and the (not so) quiet sneering of relatives and in-laws, after all other enjoyments and diversions have been extinguished or put aside for the sake of study, after the very love for which we have entered the academy has been turned to forlorn remorse, please, please let us at least retain our snobbery. It is all we have left. You will see soon enough…

    And I like TT’s brand of snobbery.

  • SmallAxe

    jondh, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to develop a well thought through response. I also wanted to express some of my reactions.

    Despite my exaggeration of the above posts, I am more serious about what appears to be an underlying attitude in some FPR posts that Mormon culture is backward; Mormon doctrine and theology needs rethinking; modern philosophers and scholars ought to be deferred to and relied upon over more conservative authorities or scholars; and even scripture needs to be rethought in light of new academic fields of study.

    Now, many or all of these accusations may be justified. The problem is in their delivery. I don’t need to tell you that an audience of a text matters just as much as its author, and even if you refuse on principle to pander to anyone, consider your impact: how profoundly will you affect those who sorely need your insights if they continue to feel like you’re thumbing your nose at them and the things they love? If they feel this way, is it only their own fault? How effective will a professed agent for change be if he only preaches to the choir?

    This speaks of course only for myself; but I see my role as cultural critic and my role as blogger as two related, but rather different things. When I act as cultural critic I do so in forums different from those in which I act as blogger. I do this in church, in intimate conversation with friends, in formal presentations (at conferences or at firesides, etc.), and in publication. FWIW, this is one of the main reasons I find it best to not use my real name in blogging. I see blogging as pretty much experimenting with ideas and partially about letting off steam. This experimenting allows me to explore issues in a public forum which are otherwise “sensitive”, as well as experiment with methodologies learned in places other than church (i.e., the academy) in bringing them to bear on my religion. It also allows me to slip up and occasionally look like a snob. I’ve said this before, but it warrants repeating. Much of being accepted by the mainstream is about “presentation” (or “tone”, or perhaps we could say, “the expression of a sincere intent”). Presentation, or expression, however, favors a certain skill set. Those who can remember to couch their terminology in socially accepted words (it’s “ceremony” not “ritual”), control the inflection of their voice (getting that GA tone), groom themselves in the right way, charitably restate the position of the parties they disagree with, cite scripture, bear their testimony, etc. are the ones deemed having a sincere intent. Few people are born with these skills. Fortunately, many of us can learn them, but it in fact takes time; or, in other words, it takes some practice. I think may LDSs who may have ideas contrary to the mainstream, just don’t bring them up because they realize that they lack the skills to deal with the responses that will most certainly arise. Personally, I think that’s what blogging is for.

    That said, the part about letting off steam means that sometimes I try less harder than other times to refine these skills.

    On another note, maybe we should add some subtext to our name:

    FAITH PROMOTING RUMOR
    We Critique Because We Care

  • http://www.approachingjustice.wordpress.com Chris H.

    “We Critique Because We Care”

    lol.

    “Exploring Mormon thought, culture, and texts” is clearly outdated. Maybe it is time for a change.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    I was going to go for “Taking Over the Bloggernaclademia One Blog at a Time”

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    I am still not totally sure that I am comfortable with the label snob. My worry is that this term is unnecessarily pejorative to describe people with whom one disagrees, as a way of name-calling in order to discredit, without ever actually having to deal with the arguments.

    If I were to get into an argument with a professional art critic who explained to me the reasons why my preference for realism in art was based on limited exposure to the broader world of art and the social significance of anti-realist movements, I could dismiss that person as a snob, but I haven’t really dealt with the content of the criticism. As an amateur, I might think that all art is equally good (or bad), or simply a matter of subjective “taste.” But this kind of thinking is precisely what gets under the art critic’s skin, since they’ve devoted their life to understanding art, it’s history, it’s movements, and a sense of why some art is better or more important than other art, why Picaso was so important in the context in which he produced his art.

    I see a snob as someone has an “exaggerated respect” for certain things, not simply as anyone who happens to engage in them. That is, just because one reads books and likes to think about them does not make them a snob. I certainly have no respect at all for degrees, lack of degrees, language skills, social position, family relations, financial success, etc. To my knowledge, I have never been a snob in any of these senses. I care only about the content of the argument. Dismissing me as a snob seems like a short cut for dismissing my arguments, taking a lazy way out instead of trying to understand where I am coming from and show me where I might be mistaken. There are names for people like that too, but throwing them at people is just not something I am willing to do.

  • SmallAxe

    Hmm… the way I tend to view the term “snob” in this context is code word “he’s right; but he’s a prick!”

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    I am not sure prick is working for me either…. :)

  • http://www.approachingjustice.wordpress.com Chris H.

    “My worry is that this term is unnecessarily pejorative to describe people with whom one disagrees, as a way of name-calling in order to discredit, without ever actually having to deal with the arguments.”

    Well that is exactly what it is. As one who was also pegged as a snob over at the JI post (that I assume inspired some of this). I think that Nietzsche is useful here. Those who call others snobs oft do so in an attempt to tear down those they do not like by tapping into some form of angst (or maybe jealousy) towards the elite. It is a form of slave-morality.

    Hope that did not sound snobby.

  • http://www.keepapitchinin.org Ardis E. Parshall

    /sigh/

    Go back and read the JI comments that gave rise to this post. If you can be fair for even a few moments, you’ll admit that some of your comments, beginning with TT’s first, divided conferences and their speakers and audiences into two groups, the academics, and the Mormons scholars. You actually said that Mormon scholars — not just audience members who ask inappropriate questions, but the scholars themselves who were selected by the organizers of a scholarly conference — were an embarrassment. Not just at this particular “smart people’s testimony meeting,” but Mormon scholars in general (yourselves excepted, I suppose, but you didn’t even give that allowance in what you actually wrote). You continued this theme of we academics=good/you identifiably Mormon boys and girls=embarrassment through the entire thread. You genuinely cannot understand why your comments, directed toward other commenters who at least like to pretend that we’re Mormon scholars to some degree, could justly be considered snobbish?

    Competence is not snobbery. Neither is education, or appreciation of fine things, nor experience with difficult ideas. It’s snobbery to pretend that I meant any of those things.

    You-all may very well be pricks. I’ve never met any of you. Some of you are most definitely snobs.

  • SmallAxe

    I am not sure prick is working for me either….

    FWIW, there’s no way that snob could be a compliment. Not even a backhanded one. I don’t think anyone should desire to be labeled as such. I’m just pointing out that snob isn’t necessarily a dismissal of an argument. I could recognize the merits of an argument, and even be persuaded by it, but still consider the person who created it to be a snob/prick.

  • SmallAxe

    Ardis,

    Seriously, did you read my response to your comments at the JI thread? The discussion there only lends credence to TT’s theory that the label of “snob” gives one permission to not actually engage the real arguments being put forth.

  • SmallAxe

    Re #27. Since TT is traveling and unable to respond I’ll bit for a moment. For one reason or another your judgment is clouded. I don’t see TT, myself, or yourself really arguing different things in the JI post. I think we all agree that embarrassing moments happen at conferences, and sometimes they come in the form of LDSs being insensitive to the context. There are all other kinds of problems with other groups of people at conferences that could be talked about. No one claimed that all Mormon scholars are an embarrassment.

    That said, some of TT’s word choice could be taken as condescending, which is what I imagine you mean by “snobbish”. But if you’re keeping score, I don’t think it was much more snobbish than some of your comments such as your innuendo of the lioness watching her cubs play. Or perhaps age and experience is the only privileged position that exempts one of condescension.

    FWIW, I, and I believe this counts for TT as well, have always respected you as a “scholar”; not from the position of an academic who has pity on those poor scholars trying their best, but from the position of realizing that you certainly know much more about certain fields of inquiry than I do.

  • http://www.keepapitchinin.org Ardis E. Parshall

    SmallAxe, I honestly thought I was responding directly to what I read in yours and TT’s and others’ comments at JI. I genuinely believed that I *was* engaging the arguments you-all made, both by responding to particular remarks and by proposing in at least one case a possible reason for my misunderstanding you. I do not understand why your remarks became so hostile toward me, there or here, and in some cases I don’t think my own comments were read at all. (Why, for instance, would TT continue to pretend I thought he was speaking specifically about MHA after I had already explained to him that my comments were in response not only to him, but to others who *had* mentioned MHA?)

    Whether you’ll accept it or not, I do respect your (all of you) talents and skills, to the extent I’m capable of recognizing them. I only wish you could respect the differing talents of others. Late 19th century Mormon history may not be as grand as what you do, but I can run circles around you when it comes to my own specialty. Let me know if you ever need anything along those lines — I promise to treat you better then than you’ve treated me in the past few days.

  • oudenos

    Hold on. Aren’t pricks penises? Why is Ardis P. talking about penises? And why are penises pejorative labels? What is to dislike about a penis? Certainly they are not inherently snobby, maybe cocky, but not snobby. I’m guessing Ardis P. wouldn’t like to be called the female anatomical equivalent of prick. Let’s stick with snobs and snobbery and leave penises out of this discussion and to their own pursuits.

  • SmallAxe

    oudenos,

    a little crotchety today i see.

  • SmallAxe

    I genuinely believed that I *was* engaging the arguments you-all made, both by responding to particular remarks and by proposing in at least one case a possible reason for my misunderstanding you. I do not understand why your remarks became so hostile toward me, there or here, and in some cases I don’t think my own comments were read at all.

    Ardis, you made no attempt to respond to my #51 in that thread. My last comment later in that post (#63?) need not be read as hostile; I was merely playing along with the trope that you set up. And I was hardly hostile here.

    Late 19th century Mormon history may not be as grand as what you do

    It’s actually far more interesting. [Edit: To be clear, 19th century Mormon history is far more interesting than anything I've been working on]

    I promise to treat you better then than you’ve treated me in the past few days.

    I think I’ve been rather respectful. [I should also add that I'm sorry if you don't feel I have.]

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    This is long past due, but I am just getting back into town.

    Ardis 27,

    Go back and read the JI comments that gave rise to this post. If you can be fair for even a few moments,

    I have decided to do so again, to see if I can understand where you took personal offense.

    beginning with TT’s first, divided conferences and their speakers and audiences into two groups, the academics, and the Mormons scholars. You actually said that Mormon scholars — not just audience members who ask inappropriate questions, but the scholars themselves who were selected by the organizers of a scholarly conference — were an embarrassment. Not just at this particular “smart people’s testimony meeting,” but Mormon scholars in general (yourselves excepted, I suppose, but you didn’t even give that allowance in what you actually wrote).

    I think that this is a significant misreading of my original claim at JI, which was much more limited. I said that “many” of the papers were disappointing and that at previous conferences “almost without exception” Mormon scholars fell short. Both qualifications suggest that I do not mean “Mormon scholars in general,” since I specifically did not say that. While I will admit that I did perhaps overly generalize with a bit of hyperbole, I did not think it was appropriate to name names of each individual presentation that I have found lacking in the last decade in order to satisfy the specifics. It isn’t necessary. Rather, I was making a general point about the ambiguous nature of these conferences, since many of the presenters are not quite academic. This exact same claim has been made by plenty of people who’ve attended these conferences (were you at any of the conferences that I referrenced???), both in conversation and in print. I don’t think that this general point is all that controversial, at least not when you actually read what I wrote instead of radicalizing it.

    As for myself being an exception to the generalization of embarrassing Mormon scholars, I certainly never made this claim, both because I did not present at any of these conferences nor did I claim that there were no other Mormon scholars who know how to behave properly.

    You continued this theme of we academics=good/you identifiably Mormon boys and girls=embarrassment through the entire thread.

    Actually, from what I can tell, the rest of the discussion focused on the role of Mormon audiences. In every one of my follow-up comments, this was the point of discussion, as far as I can tell, not the question of Mormon scholars. All of the suggestions that I offered were directed at addressing the problem of the audience, so I don’t really see this supposed assertion that I separated myself from all other Mormon scholars to be a fair reading of what I was saying, or even of the topic of the discussion at all.

    You genuinely cannot understand why your comments, directed toward other commenters who at least like to pretend that we’re Mormon scholars to some degree, could justly be considered snobbish?

    This is where I think that there is some serious misunderstanding. I still am not sure why you think I was talking about you. You have not presented at any of the conferences that I mentioned. Further, I did not implicate all Mormon scholars, but only those who don’t know the difference between scholarly and devotional inquiry. If that is you (and as I stated on the previous thread, I don’t think that it is), that perhaps you might be implicated, but since I am speaking at the level of such generalities, I see no reason for you to take this as a personal insult. I offered to discuss this issue in private which you declined, so I am just going to assume that you are choosing to be offended where no offense was given nor intended. I apologized, and I apologize again, if you think that I was speaking about you. I repeat that I am not.

    I do not understand why your remarks became so hostile toward me,

    I still don’t see any evidence for this. In all of my direct responses to you I went out of my way to emphasize that I think that we agree, to try to clear up any confusion of my claims, and to apologize for any unintended offense. Meanwhile, you disinvited young scholars from participating in MHA, called us and treated us like your “cubs” and you are the great lioness, suggested that we are not “open-minded” and “tolerant” and that therefore we shouldn’t go to these kinds of conferences, then turned to attack FPR as “completely divorced from its devotional meaning, as a purely intellectual exercise,” and accused me of being “determined to misunderstand everything [you] say, and in the nastiest way possible.” If anyone should be offended, it should be me by your barrage of personal attacks and insults. However, I am not. I genuinely want to work toward mutual understanding, and I offered several areas where we could have a productive discussion in specific points in which we may disagree, not to mention my apologies, concessions, and offers to discuss this privately.

    TT continue to pretend I thought he was speaking specifically about MHA

    I am not sure that you actually read your comment on this point. You said “If MHA were an academic organization along the lines advocated by TT.” I said that I never said anything about the MHA. Later you said that you never said that I did, but I think you forgot what you wrote.


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