ICYMI: Emojis and Dubious Authorship FTW

emoji bible

Maybe you saw the news that there’s a new version of the Bible out? It’s one catered specifically to millennials, the news outlets say, and it makes heavy use of… yep, emojis.

Fun fact before I go on: my computer is drawing red squiggly lines beneath both “millennials” (at least in its plural/collective form) and “emojis.” Not “squiggly” though—who knew…

At any rate, this new Emoji Bible for the social media savvy millennial is making some waves. Some find it a great way to make the Bible accessible to a new generation of readers/users. Others find it disrespectful at best. Continue reading “ICYMI: Emojis and Dubious Authorship FTW”

At the Painting’s Edge

ua campus painting

Our campus has a new painting, hanging in the lobby of our main library, depicting the University of Alabama prior to the Civil War — near the end of which most of the campus was burned down by northern troops passing through the city. But here, in this roughly 6 by 14 foot vibrant painting, we see the Rotunda brought back to life, as well as several other now missing buildings (only the remains exist today, such as a pile of debris that was once Franklin Hall that has come to be known as “the Mound“). Continue reading “At the Painting’s Edge”

You Are What You Read, with Merinda Simmons (Part 1)

For a new Culture on the Edge series “You Are What You Read” we’re asking each member to answer a series of questions about books — either academic or non-academic — that have been important or influential on us.

1. Name a book you read early on that shaped the trajectory of your career.

morrisonI was still very early in my graduate studies in English when I came across Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Morrison is best known for her novels, of course, but this tiny book is a critical examination of what she calls an “Africanist presence” that has been key, in her reading, to the construction of literary notions of “Americanness.” I tend to think—both in fiction and in criticism, Morrison is at her best when she is at her most concise. My favorite of her novels has always been the quick but powerful read Sula, and I’m similarly taken with her ability to pack a lot of punch in the mere 91 pages of Playing in the Dark.

At that point as a grad student, I thought I’d be taking a relatively traditional approach, doing close readings of the works by “great” American writers (J. D. Salinger was the one I most wanted to write about). What struck me about Morrison’s text at the time was her interest in the structural or contextual concerns of the fiction she discusses (by Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway, specifically). She deals with the ways in which ideas of individualism, freedom, manhood, discovery, etc.—all popular themes in so much American writing—rely heavily on an oppressive racial power structure that creates the space for writers and scholars to naturalize that very structure by ignoring concerns of racial identifications in the pursuit of “humanistic” matters. This was a big and productive blow to what I then thought to be the different and distinct worlds of “text” and “context.” Continue reading “You Are What You Read, with Merinda Simmons (Part 1)”

Residual Assumptions

6 Shiv havan cropped

In a recent email discussion among scholars about general issues of representations and Wendy Doniger’s controversial book (about which I have written on Culture on the Edge and Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog), P. Pratap Kumar, a colleague in South Africa, framed the issue through a clear, though contrived, contrast between the scholar and the devotee. He wrote,

Someone who is raised as a Hindu grows up listening to religious songs at Satsangs and even through Bollywood religious songs (there are plenty of Bollywood religious songs that Hindus listen to with utmost devotion) and never would have known that their Hindu texts contain many erotic statements and not just the singular term Linga. But on the other hand, scholars especially from the outside Hindu tradition (be they western or eastern) begin with Sanskrit language and then reading the highly specialised texts where they find statements that devout Hindus would have never heard of. From scholar’s reading, there are indeed very detailed erotic references in many Hindu texts, . . .
We as scholars have to talk about these things because these matters are there in the texts from the Rig Veda to the epics in plenty of places. It is hard to fault a western scholar or any non-Hindu scholar for pointing these out and translating them for what they are.

Continue reading “Residual Assumptions”

Beyond Words

A billboard reading "The joy of not being sold anything"There’s an interesting, understated commercial playing here these days, advertizing a smartphone by not saying anything about it. Continue reading “Beyond Words”