And then he goes from he assessment of the conventional American myths to a full-on study of gender in mainstream Hollywood. Do these images reflect our values and assumptions or shape them? What might the recent interest in strong female characters bode for film and storytelling? He does not particularly address films about LGBTQ characters, by the way, but his framework about being critical of American mythologies of traditional gender assumptions he reads the Bible as offering a trajectory towards egalitarian justice could provide tools for a positive Christian engagement with all sorts of films around those themes, as well.
We can truly enjoy movies and be challenged and grow through their artful style — especially if we know something about it all. A final comment about why on some occasions, it seems, church folk almost all of whom surely watch TV and movies seem surprised when we have books displayed at their events like Cinematic Faith: A Christian Perspective….
I think it is because some religionists and many common people in the pew seem to think that all God cares about is church and maybe the study of theology. He wants to offer us a faith-based, Christian perspective on film making and film viewing, for film makers and film viewers whether they do theology or church work, or not. He wants to equip us to live our ordinary faith before God with intentionality in ways that are distinctive to this side of life — leisure, entertainment, the arts.
And I think that is as it should be. It is for artists and those of us eager to open up our aesthetic side of life, even in our entertainments, our play, our going to the movies. The recent movement of conversations between film-makers and theologians is fascinating, and many books with that approach have chapters that are nothing short of brilliant. But most are doing this rather arcane project — uniting Christian movie lovers with Christian theological scholars. Romanowski, in Cinematic Faith , as he has done throughout his career, has engaged mainstream film studies and taught us ordinary folks how it all works.
Informed by good scholarship — from an integral Christian social imaginary and Biblically-grounded life perspective, to be sure — he helps us all be more attentive and faithful, even in our entertainments. In this regard, Cinematic Faith is for us all. A book about movies that has churchy stained glass on the cover strikes me as awkward. This sort of approach just seems somehow off to me, as if we have to somehow sanctify the ordinary act of watching movies not by thinking Christianly about movies as Romanowski would argue but that we need these professional thinkers about theology to make it so.
Offering great movie choices, insightful analysis, wonderful prose, rich knowledge about film and theology — this book has it all. Romanowski, in his neat book, implies but does not rail out loud that too many Christian film studies volumes overestimate the role of content and underestimate the role of style, the art of the filmmaking craft. And then that scholar continued on with the essay citing example after example of content, with hardly any word about angle of vision or editing or sound or even acting. That is, even those who say that we need a more aesthetically nuanced view of the art of movie-making, rarely get around to doing it.
Happily Deeply Focused: Film and Theology in Dialogue really does do a good measure of this, making it a very up-to-date, delightful, informative, and valuable contribution to those wanting a better Christian understanding of film. Kudos to Johnson, Detweiler, and Kutter for making this a central — and very enjoyable — part of Deep Focus.
This is a bit obtuse at times, but they are trying to invite us to get beyond our historical debates within the church about film and the popular arts. They bring in lots of theologians Tillich, Niehbur and spirituality writers who will appeal to those who want this sort of churchy dialogue. It is interesting to me that the neo-Calvinist Romanowksi mostly quotes film critics and Christian philosophers and reviewers and rarely cites theologians as such.
The trio of Reel Spirituality authors tell very moving stories, actually, about their own film-going experiences and make a case for watching movies as a spiritual experience. What if we just have a good belly laugh or found ourselves strangely moved by touching romance? You know what I mean? Sure some movies move us to tears and for Christians their tears are holy unto the Lord. There is absolutely no doubt that Johnston and Detweiler and Callaway are real film buffs and it is clear they have friends, literally, in the film scene in Hollywood.
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As faith leaders who are obviously serious disciples of Jesus, we should listen to them and their good call to media literacy. Lindvall is correct in saying that:. This stellar work invites readers to join an ongoing conversation among some of the most cinematically literate companions one can find. Lets help get that surprising message out there — that God cares about all of life and that we can we must! Our BookNotes and our special discount offers will come to your inbox about once a week.
We are especially grateful when we get good feedback and lots of orders the point of this bookselling biz, of course for books we commend. Reading this book will help you understand your Bible better and help you gain a better vision for dedicated Christian living in these trying times. This is potent, missional stuff, directly inspired by a close reading of Romans. As I explained, Romans Disarmed book fits well within the decades of work and witness and writing Brian and Sylvia have done. They are a bit rare — academics who publish in the finest scholarly journals who work an organic farm, stewarding it well with old ways and some innovative permaculture approaches.
And they have animals and heirloom tomatoes and do workshops on all kinds of homesteading skills. Plus, they have served among the homeless in Toronto, done campus ministry with college students, have mentored young adults in starting social service ministries and justice-seeking businesses. In that column I named some of their other books as well. Which is all just a way of saying that their broad intellectual and life influences, their years of research and writing and their fruitful leadership has made them into the sorts of authors we want our customers and friends to know about.
Agree fully or not with this robust new or is it ancient? We hope you are glad for this advice from us here at the shop even if it is a hard adventure further up and further in. We would be honored if you ordered it from us. It pleases us greatly that we have had the pleasure of shipping a bunch of these out this past week. It would make an ideal companion — more conventional, but powerful, eloquent, and inspiring. I suspect that they would have much in common and a few significant differences, and a bunch of quibbles about exegesis text by text by text.
There have been a lot of books on St. Paul, lately. Of course, we have raved about the novel-like biography of Paul colorfully written by N. I think it will. If you are a campus minister or youth worker or one who hangs out with those who are on the fringes of faith; that is if you are an evangelist or friend of the un-churched, I wonder how this can help you share the gospel more faithfully?
I think the way Brian and Sylvia interact and reply to the good questions their fictional interlocutor raises would be very helpful to model healthy conversations. Know anybody like that? Know someone who maybe needs a shift in perspective and some renewed energy to move deeper into Christian discipleship? If you need to have your world rocked a bit, Romans Disarmed will shake some truisms you thought you knew and push you into some wild waters.
Hang on, and go for it. It could save your life! Rather than merely reminding us not to spend so much on consumer goods and pressing us to avoid plastics and toxic junk, they channeling Berry invite us to a stewardly vision of life, rooted in a sturdy view and a quite Biblical view of creation. All of these books — some of our favorites — have at least one big thing in common. Richard Middleton not to mention listening to the albums of Bruce Cockburn but a whole lot of Wendell Berry. A whole lot of Wendell Berry.
What great stories they are, lovely, calm, mature, wise, and perfect for summer reading. We hope you have at least a few of his poetry collections. Let the arguments commence for those fans that are true Berry aficionados. For most of us, we need a reliable introduction, a good, well-chosen collection and these are almost perfect. So these new, handsome Library of America editions are wonderful and fill a real need for those wanting such a good collection. There are three ways to buy them.
There is volume 1, offering work from his earlier years, there is volume 2 which includes more contemporary writing, and there is the boxed set of both, entitled Where I Stand that comes in a very nice slip-case box. What a treasure! For those wanting to dip into Mr. Oh my, this is another one of those exceptional books that to describe well I simply have to use superlatives. You can pre-order it easily by using our order form link shown below.
We breathe in the toxic air, take up habits and values and ways of being in the secularizing, modernist world without too much self-awareness that it could be otherwise. Which is why books like this are so very important. And this one is happily not only insightful and important, but interesting and enjoyable and practical. He is looking not only at symptoms of our discontent but the ethos of the age.
And, yes, he explains Charles Taylor. His sense of place — and his invitation to us to deepen our own loyalties to our own places — is palpable. Lately, many Christian folks have shifted in how we talk about our work in the world and I think it is a good thing. Many are now talking about their efforts to love their neighbors well by describing commitments to the common good.
We hear talk about civic virtue. These are all pretty nascent and it is encouraging to hear this kind of talk about social architecture and civil society and the common good. Jake is on the cutting edge of all this and his book will help us all. The best of these efforts sound refreshingly neither old school left or right but something new, offering a counter-cultural witness, a city on a hill.
It is indispensable for anyone wanting to think well about our time and place and what God is calling us to. And, yes, he uses Wendell Berry a lot. Keller notes, by the way, that when he entered evangelical and Reformed pastoral ministry nearly forty-five years ago the lines of debate in conservative churches were largely theological in nature.
He outlines in a sentence or two some of the issues that many argued about and I felt the knot in my stomach as I read but he observes that increasingly the fault lines between churches and the most vehement debates nowadays are about culture. And as our culture is weakening and fragmenting and the dissatisfaction with political leaders and churches and other formerly respected institutions wanes, we are increasingly moving towards very hard times. I assume you know this. This has long been a classic conservative argument, that as society is unmoored from deeper roots by even well intended revolutionary goals, we lose tradition and values and end up with just atomistic individuals doing whatever pleases them.
And voting for those who will help them keep their stuff. So, as Jake illustrates without pressing this exact point we need something more profound than a left wing critique or a historic conservative critique; both have true insights but neither are adequate. We need some Berry-esque, neo-agrarian? On some pages of In Search of the Common Good Meador sounds pretty darn conservative and he is pretty traditionalist on matters of family and sexuality and on other pages he rails against unjust income disparities and institutional racism.
In this, he might offend older conservative types, but he seems to have the church fathers and the best Christian scholars over his shoulder, so this is no facile jive. Indeed, he bolsters his critique of the economic gods of progress and growth by citing the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin. He does love Oscar Romero, and quotes him from time to time. He tells us, in other words, how we got ourselves into this mess. Like a serious doctor giving a diagnosis, nothing cheap will do.
So he goes deep and gives us the bad news. Jake is young and idealistic and has a healthy small church and good friends who, together, are forging a new way of being faithful to God in their daily lives. I have rarely read a book that has such a delightful survey of deep philosophical currents and which is also so lovely in being down to earth. He offers good practices to restore our sense of wonder, inviting us to regain a child-like appreciation of the joy of small things.
Get this: in a way, our culture, especially since the Enlightenment and the start of the so-called modern age, has moved towards increasing fragmentation. We wear so many hats and can hardly imagine being whole, seamless. We feel like different people at work and church and home; some days it feels like we should just drop out and watch Netflix. Many of us hardly even know our neighbors. Our suburban ennui is felt even in small towns and rural spaces and it is palpable.
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Our very streets and housing designs and habits of commuting and such preclude a holy life of simple service to neighbors. What in the world does the common good look like in a cul de sac? Some of all this exhausting trouble is caused by the over specialization that leads to abstraction, living in our heads, failing to engage the real world around us, as Matthew Crawford writes.
To wit: Jake points us in new ways to get, literally, more down to Earth. We can fight incoherence and alienation and abstraction by slowing down. Alan probes our fast-pace habits through the lens of Taylor, but Jake takes us back a bit further, looking at how our utter individualism, enshrined in some of our American civic documents and our revivalist religions, drove capitalism and disruption and abstraction. It is very good writing; I was engaged from the beginning. They emerge from our age, but they become problems, or obstacles, then, that keep us from experiencing authentic community.
The chapters are on the loss of meaning, the loss of wonder and the loss of good work. I have to say I cried through some of this — in part because I was so glad to hear these words so plainly put, translating my own decades of reading about the roots of Western culture and the idols of our age. I was strongly moved by this, being reminding of very important concerns. He names these losses in the modern age and it is good to hear, painful and tragic as it may be. I love how he cites an indie-rock singer songwriter on one page and John Keats on another.
And he nicely retells a scene or two from a Wendell Berry novel. What fun! This is a short book, so the second half is not even pages, but in it he invites us to quite a lot. It is one of the finest explorations of faith and work in the modern work-world that I have read.
He shows how an increasing facelessness and inhumanity surrounds us — shades of Jacque Ellul, again, and his critique of how we overvalue and overdo technique and speed and efficiency. That Meador says we should be thoughtful and intentional about what kind of businesses we support is precious. As you know, it is our opinion that this generally precludes working with Amazon, faceless and greedy as they are. In any event, this chapter is provocative and wise and influenced by the right sorts of cares and concerns.
He is asking hard questions about what a Christian commonwealth might be like and how Christian societies might emerge. This will, necessarily, involve repentance and sacrifice. Some of this chapter is just sensible stuff — distinguishing between political doctrine and policy, for instance. I suppose this is partially because he is so rooted in a Christian democratic appeal that is in part-pre-modern, taking hints for contemporary citizenship through a lens of Augustine and Aquinas, Luther and Calvin.
I know he studies the likes of Abraham Kuyper. And did I mention he likes Wendell Berry? Meador cares about place and beauty and integrity and family and order and competency and joy and sacraments and grace and kindness and, well, who can support a leader who despises these deeply Christian values? Again, his vision of citizenship is not left-leaning or liberationist but is gracious and humane, maybe the sort of stuff one might catch at the Front Porch Republic. He tends to talk about covenants, not contracts; the common good, not individual rights; like the Bible, when talking about politics, he talks more about public justice than individual freedom.
He is interested in nurturing among us a long-haul sort of discipleship that creates good neighbors and good citizens. They will care about peacefulness and neighborliness and solidarity. Yes he reminds us when considering politics we have to think of policy. But policy proposals are often ambiguous, proximate; good people can disagree.
Indeed, it may be that heaven is very much like Narnia, a world restored, a garden healed, a renewed creation. I am so glad he does some direct exegesis of the mistranslated and misinterpreted 2 Peter , for instance insisting that God is not going to destroy the world. This is new creation theology and visionary hope that thrills me. I hope it thrills you. I love how it ends with his own love of the stories of The Hobbit. It reminds us that the road runs right to our very door, and that road might take us anywhere and toward anything.
It reminds us that God stands over and above his creation calling us further up and further in. The road will lead to a cross. But only things that die can be resurrected. And so as sure as the road leads us to the cross, in leads us to the eternal city, to the home of a king, to the desire of all nations, to the joy of every longing heart. That is the sort of Tolkien-esque, virtuous, costly, hopeful, adventure a deep Kingdom vision that serves the common good might evoke.
This righteous concern for the rhythms of creation and common good is growing among us, and realizing the obstacles and challenges and Biblical guidance is urgent. Whether you are younger older, evangelical or more mainline, a quieter type or a missional activist, I think In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World by Jake Meador will be a great companion on your journey. Order it today. I want to say a lot about it, but know some of you will tune out. On steroids. Where he meets the pagan slave woman, Iris.
What a story, laden with scholarly footnotes and even Bible references who knew the list of names in Romans 16 could be so informative and yield such an interesting story! I might add there are several fun books that do this sort of thing, but not many. Besides this page-turning fictional device in Romans Disarmed that is just one chapter in a book that weighs in at just under pages , there are so many fascinating and important historical details, including first-century urban archeological, linguistic, political, and theological matters that are above my pay-grade to comment critically upon.
Whenever I read a Biblical commentary and the writer asserts that a Greek word really means this or ought best to be translated like that, I have to choose to appreciate their scholarship and trust their instincts or not. From the famous conflict between the Judeans and the Gentiles in the Roman house churches to the equally famous vile spectacles of the likes of the Nero and Caligula, Keesmaat and Walsh have done their scholarly work and brought it alive in astonishing, colorful, detail. If you like this sort of historical background stuff, you will be riveted by all they explain. I might as well just say it.
Will they appreciate how much social location matters? Will they know why they draw so much on Elsa Tamez and her book Amnesty of Grace exploring justification by faith through the lens of suffering and repression in Latin America? This book will upset some people. It is relentless in bearing witness to what they themselves experience as they grapple, as a married couple, parents, homemakers, pastors, preachers, scholars, permaculture farmers, citizens, and leaders of faith communities mostly among college students in Toronto although also in more conventional Anglican parishes where they have ministered to and become friends with marginalized folks, those cast aside by other churches and the mainstream culture.
From LGTBQ students and friends to urban homeless folks to First Nations people seeking reparations from stolen land and treaties broken, Brian and Sylvia care for their land, their place, and those whom God has given them; their taking Pauline mandates to welcome all, to serve the stranger, to be inclusive and caring to outsiders, has become a huge part of their lifestyle and is a lens through which they do life. They are able to see the subversive teaching in the Bible and let it be said: they know and love their Bibles much better than most and especially of the Apostle Paul, because they themselves spend time with the marginalized and oppressed.
And, boy, do they ever see these themes in Pauline writings! Like the Old Testament prophets so beloved by Paul, they are nearly crass in their punchy denunciation of idols old and new. Few contemporary political movements and leaders are left unscathed in this broadside, so my fear is that our customers especially those on the political right will be offended. I hope as Brian and Sylvia do, I know such readers hang in there with their arguments about how the epistle of Romans can help us live in a more Christ-like way. Or is it the other way around?
They rightly in my view think our imaginations have largely been captured by the ethos of technology and progress and greed and hubris and that our own government and media are seducing us into acceptance and complicity in grave injustices. By the way, as an aside: did you know that James K. One can see their common concerns about not weaponizing the language of worldview and realizing that our faith is embodied, not abstract, lived out in but not of the surrounding culture and its deformed and deforming ethos.
Nobody, though, has put this stuff in conversation with so close a reading of the Apostle Paul. Romans Disarmed is a major, major contribution to a distinctively Christian social-political vision and a major, major contribution to Pauline scholarship. It is a must read for anybody who cares about the New Testament. Idols, you know, are good things that become ultimate things; things we trust for communal salvation and that we start to serve and even become like. Almost a decade ago, Brian teamed up with beloved environmental studies professor and creation-care advocate at Hope College, Stephen Bouma-Prediger to write a book that, again, forms a nearly essential backdrop to the work he and Sylvia have done in Romans Disarmed.
Broadly researched and splendidly written, this book is essential reading for anyone who wants truly to comprehend and mend our culture! Beyond Homelessness is admitted a big and sprawling book, but it is a wonderful and significant companion to Romans Disarmed. It remains the best book on the subject, and the one the engages the Bible the most!
Home-breaking, Homelessness, and Home-making in Romans? You have got to read it to believe it! It really should be pondered. Wright and whose work is sometimes cited by him as influential in his own thinking is, within the more scholarly world, a major conversation partner and professional colleague with many other renowned scholars. She has chapters in many books, including one in the British festschrift for N. Sigh — I know. Why, Fortress, why? Brian has one in that collection as well.
Her preaching is often imaginative and poetic and she laces her Biblical exegesis with stories of planting environmentally helpful shrubs around their watershed and their solar panels and their eating habits, but she has earned the right to be taken very seriously by the guild of Biblical scholars. She is remarkably gifted and has studied long and hard to be able to see the inter-connections between different parts of the Biblical story, how New Testament writers draw on the Hebrew Bible. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!
This is not a house of condemnation! Slavery is never the last word in this story. Liberation is always at hand. Homecoming remains available. The promise is not nullified and cannot be nullified even by our home-breaking ways.
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And then a paragraph about being called out of slavery and being crowned in glory, etc. Of course, this language echoes the exodus from Egypt. When a Judean talks about being set free from slavery, the exodus is the memory being evoked. When a Judean says that we have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, the story of fearful Israel in the wilderness longing to return to Egypt resonates through these words.
When a Judean talks about being led by the Spirit, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night is the unmistakable reference. When a Judean speaks of receiving a spirit of adoption, wherein their slave status is overturned through covenant promise, then the nation-constituting exodus is undoubtedly ringing in the background. When a Judean refers to the Spirit bearing witness with our spirits that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God, their language of inheritance reaches back to Moses leading the children of God toward their inheritance.
Oh my, this line of thought goes on for a page more, and it is wonderfully inspiring. It brings a lot of insight about how these texts might have been heard and, in doing so, help us get their import and impact for our own faith communities. Leaving aside the question of whether it is wise to appropriate secular ad campaigns for evangelistic purposes, the point Brian and Sylvia are making is helpful. Brian and Sylvia help us by introducing us and unpacking what might have been assumed and understood on the streets of first century Rome.
So, this is a really useful book, functioning as a socio-cultural Biblical study with a good eye for the original social context. And it insists — as most Bible commentators would, but few really do much with — that this pastoral letter from the great apostle to the Christ-followers of Rome has great application for our discipleship, congregational life, and spirituality today.
Where they really are fresh and provocative is how they insist Paul was knowingly and the hearers were knowingly aware of a subversive rhetoric against the powers and values of the Empire, and how that may be a key for understanding the power of the gospel for us today. We are welcoming and non-violent as Christ was and as the Kingdom should and will be. First, Brian and Sylvia teach us although they are not the first, but they are among the most vivid and clear and compelling about it that our social location matters if we are going to see and interpret the Bible well. After energetically describing a joyful moment one night on the dance floor at Sanctuary in downtown Toronto, they tell how the mood changes as they needed to embrace some hurting brothers as some harsh songs brought prophetic denunciation of injustice perpetrated against First Nations peoples.
Their empathy is palpable and they remind us of how this is, if you will, a hermeneutical key:. Without standing in such places, we will miss the power of this epistle both in its ancient context and in a contemporary setting. I think they are right. It is right there in the text! They say this specifically and directly and their own personal stories have illuminated their work as Biblical scholars.
This becomes evident in the first two pages that had me wiping tears away from my cheeks as they told us about the joys and sorrows of the ragamuffin folk that make up the Sanctuary Community in downtown Toronto to whom the book is dedicated. Secondly, our knowledge of the Bible itself in its narrative flow, its major themes, its socio-political setting and the interconnection of texts and themes is immensely important.
Too few of us really understand the key moments of the Biblical history of redemption. Serious Bible scholars may agree on the importance of background and context, but my sense is that so much of the way Keesmaat and Walsh connect various themes, Older and Newer Testaments and the socio-economic stuff is exceptionally illuminating, bringing fresh and solid insight into what was going on in that context.
T Wright has done this for us a bit; our old friend the late, great Kenneth Bailey did so in remarkable ways. Some scholars I trust have expressed concern that some have overstated the anti-Empire themes in the New Testament. Similarly, my Dutch Calvinist mentor Peter J. Who knew then that stewardship was more than giving money to the church, but the primal call of humans to care for creation?
That salvation in the Bible often include inheritance of land, and that land reform and social justice are often talking about in the Bible. Thanks be to God. Shane Claiborne is mostly right, then, when he says that Brian and Sylvia are two of his favorite Bible scholars. This new book is perfect for scholars and new Bible readers alike, and for everyone in between. And they constantly shift between way back then and today, talking about what it must have been like for Christ-followers in Rome to welcome those of different eating habits and positions of power in the city and those with different degrees of loyalty or disdain for the Empire itself to break bread together and then they reflect on what it is like for most of us in our own congregations as we try to be friendly to guests or talk well among ourselves over matters of importance.
The shift from the era of Paul and Caesar to your church and Trump moves quickly and it is stimulating and provoking, to say the least. On the other hand, it could be a godsend of Biblical insight to stimulate those who are put off by the sometimes abstract and nearly pointless detail of some Bible commentaries.
Romans Disarmed is, as the subtitle shouts, both a serious bit of Biblical scholarship and a charter for a counter-imperial Christian community. From a Trump official saying last summer that we have to obey them because of Romans 13 oh, what a misreading!
Not at all. Those who assume it is primarily a magisterial theological outpouring will be challenged to think about Romans in this new perspective, but it is quite compelling, I think. Just because it is long? By taking the letter and its anti-Imperial tone and its socio-political and economic context seriously, it allows us to de-escalate some of the peculiar debates about it, and how it tends to be used these days to close down conversation or flog people with.
Is this merely a new kind of weaponizing of Romans, using it for a far left, counter-Imperial, anti-American narrative, beating up Republicans and those living for the American Dream? Because they are pushing back on behalf of those who have been hurt, badly hurt, by toxic religion often based on what they believe are mis-readings and certainly mishandling of Romans, they can be strident.
In some ways, they are trying to help those who are leaving the evangelical world because of the way the Christian right has been so ugly, helping them see a new way to be Christian and a new way to read and love the Bible again. I get that. But, happily, they are often quite clear about inviting authentic diversity and being welcoming to all regardless of politics or point of view. Since they are allies and advocates for the dispossessed and marginalized, it is a live question about how — in a communal conversation or small group Bible study, say — we keep it safe for LGBTQ brothers and sisters, for instance, if someone in the group is bombastic and unkind?
They tell of one such encounter and how they handled it might surprise you. And — of course! What in the world might it have been like for slaves and masters, Jews and Gentiles, sexually abused women and children and their perpetrators to hear the great apostle tell people they are one, to welcome all? This is explosive, painful, hard, breathtaking stuff. That few commentaries on this book of the Bible explore with much depth or passion this extraordinary re-making of social relationships then and there not to mention here and now is almost professional malpractice among the theologians and Bible teachers.
I heard NT Wright talk about how many classes on Romans just peter out before they get to the upshot of it all in the last few chapters, just skipping that as not particularly urgent. In his newer perspective, and in Romans Disarmed, it surely is the point, how the gospel of grace forms a new egalitarian community that can serve as a count-weighted witness to the violence of the powers that be.
At any rate, this volume helps us see the need for and helps us become equipped to form this kind of inclusive and just community despite our huge differences. This is part of the agenda of Romans Disarmed and what allows the well-informed authors to unpack this so fruitfully for us.
One of the ways they enact this exact sort of hospitable discourse is by using a device they featured creatively in Colossians Remixed. Just when some of their teaching is getting heavy and their Bible interpretation seems a bit speculative, in comes another voice, in italics, an interlocutor. This new conversation partner is skeptical enough, but seems to be on board more with their claims, asking wise and good questions, seeking clarification of their exegesis and theological views and telling stories from his own life about the difficulties of applying this kind of anti-imperial lifestyle.
This dialogue partner, even though pushing back against some of their statements, is sincere and eager to learn and grow into deeper more relevant fidelity to the gospel. In doing so they model the kind of robust conversations that are needed within our faith communities and they anticipate the kinds of questions many readers will have while reading Romans Disarmed.
It makes the book more interesting and more useful for us all. I suspect that as you are reading Romans Disarmed you are going to want to have some conversations about a lot of different things and How the Body of Christ Talks just might be tool that will save you a lot of grief, guiding you towards being communities of missional conversation and prophetic dialogue. Oh yes, this is rich, thoughtful, good stuff and would make a great companion volume to read alongside Romans Disarmed. Smith assures us that practices of conversation — especially while eating together — can be transformational within local congregations, and this resonates with the sort of body life that is described in Romans Disarmed.
Much depends on how you eat, with whom you eat, and what you eat. Eating is, of course, foundational to all of life. And where there is food, there are questions of justice, inclusion, and equality, and, most importantly, of identity. The whole anti-imperial agenda of this letter, together with its commitment to the formation of an alternative home at the heart of the empire, hangs on what happens when Jesus followers gather for the family dinner.
But they also are clear that following nearly every other major, well-informed Bible scholar when Paul uses the word righteousness, he means very much something like what we today might call social justice; as N. This is not liberal social gospel rhetoric, but the best, most faithful rendering of what the Bible itself really says. Which maybe starts with hospitality, being welcoming and listening well, especially to the marginalized and hurting. I have a hunch that even if you find them, as I do, a bit strident at times, you will like them a lot. They know a lot about philosophy, about church history, about contemporary political issues, about rock music, about urban architecture, and contemporary social science, and, yep, they grow food and love to bake bread and do many, essential home-making arts.
They know their Bibles and they love Jesus. Their organic farm community that practices regenerative agriculture is called Russet House Farm. The story of their acquiring stewardship of it is itself nearly a miracle; they do educational events and offer hospitality and welcome. Check them out. I think that the disagreements that this book itself will engender will, if faced in the proper spirit, in the context of the welcoming grace of the gospel itself, mirror some of the difficulties of this new Christian communities forming in and around the Roman Empire in the first century.
Just think of Galatians or 1 Corinthians or what are sometimes called pastoral letters. Romans, Keesmaat and Walsh insist, is one of these, writ large. It is not primarily or firstly if at all an abstract theological treatise and they explain well why they believe that. The history of assuming and privileging this kind of de-contextualized doctrinal reading is itself part of our problem in blunting the revolutionary socio-economics and political resistance which is nearly overt and surely implicit in this pastoral letter from the hand of Paul.
The Paul who would eventually come to Rome and visit all those people he mentions by name in this letter — rich and poor, slave and free, men and women, Judean and Gentile — and end up in jail, killed for sedition against the Empire. There are some very interesting chapters in there from important Pauline scholars. These essays and sample sermons illustrated generously how many different views there are about the heart of Romans, how to read it, and how sermons proclaim its grace and grit to us for our daily discipleship. It is eating in a way that is unfaithful to your place.
They are joyful and good folks but about this they are deadly serious. They end the book with a beautiful sort of litany of how Paul called this community to ways that were counter to the values and practices and ways of living in the Rome Empire and counter to our own culture as well.
Can we envision a world where the voices of the suffering allowed to subvert the ideology of militarism and consumption that dominates our imaginations? Can we imagine a world where those of us with privilege sacrifice that privilege in order to enter into the suffering of others, of creation, of God? It is clear that Paul could envision such a world, and this is a world that we want to live in, too.
That is the kind of hope that Paul calls us to. If we truly walk with the oppressed and allow ourselves to be led by those who mourn, perhaps we will find ourselves, with Iris and Nereus, not only imagining the new creation but living in such a way that others too will recognize it when it arrives.
There is another teaching device used, an imaginative practice that was, in fact, used in first century rabbinic circles, a poetic and application-oriented modernized paraphrase of the Older Testament texts. Not to mention the non-Jewish Gentiles grafted into the story of Israel. So church leaders would do these preaching performances called targums. Walsh excels at doing them for us. Pages of Romans Disarmed is one such imaginative, improvisational re-telling of Romans 12 and 13 that serves as an update of much of what they are saying Romans is saying to us today.
It is worth the price of the book to read and re-read aloud in your own community, perhaps this modern, creative, re-telling. I mean that. Early on they have a great one re-telling the first part of Romans 1 and nearer the end, a vivid one about inspired by the end of Romans 1. These targums are brilliant. When rabbis would stand up to read the Torah to Diaspora synagogue congregations throughout the Roman Empire, they would have to translate because Hebrew had already been lost for so many Judeans.
But they never translated straight. They did not understand meaning to be conveyed through exact and literal translation that is a modern notion of translation. No, that would have been too reductionistic for them. Rather, they believed that the Torah was a living word, still speaking into every new situation. So their translations were also interpretations of the ancient text, an updating of the text, an attempt to allow the Torah to speak anew and fresh to a covenant people from their homeland, living as strangers in a foreign land. Are we not in a decidedly analogous situation?
We have an ancient text that we have been struggling to understand, sometimes trying to free if from the shackles of dogmatic interpretation, and we desperately want to hear this text speak a word of liberation into our own lives. Such a fresh hearing of this text requires an exercise in interpretive imagination.
So we turn again to the genre of targum.
Remember that a targum is invariably longer than the original text. It has to be, because I need to explicate a lot of what would have been implicit in the original writing. What might have been easily grasped by the first hearers if often lost on a later audience. And a targum also needs to bring the ancient text into conversation and perhaps conflict with later historical, cultural, political, and economic realities.
Moreover, this particular targum, coming three-quarters of the way through a sixteen-chapter epistle, also needs to spend some time hearing what Paul is saying in light of all that has come before. They reject the popular notion that Romans is somehow an abstract systematic theology, neither a simplistic Romans Road to soul salvation nor a treatise on Calvinistic or other kinds of intellectual dogma. As originally written and heard, it can be heard a manifesto for staying alive — both in the sense of not being deadened by the swirling seductions in our own fake Empires — and for keeping the true Biblical faith alive, becoming more authentic Christ followers of the sort that populated the counter-cultural, anti-imperial communities that transformed the Roman Empire.
But it does invite us into an adventure of hearing this letter as part of a story, a controversial, dangerous, adventuresome, almost revolutionary story. They talk about food and music and politics and violence and home-making and sexuality and worship and lament and joy and grace and worldviews. All in a commentary on a book of the Bible that some people think is metaphysical, theological, and beyond their ken. Again I say, wow.
That will take you to our secure order form page; just enter your info and tell us what you want. Here is an interesting interview with him about the founding of CPJ decades ago and his views about the relationship of faith and citizenship. There are no poetic targums, but there are some citations of Abraham Kuyper…. This is a book he told me years ago that he wanted to write and we are thrilled to announce that it just came out.
Skillen — in a way that is more foundational and less vivid about social issues than Brian and Sylvia — is, nonetheless, a public intellectual doing some sort of public theology, if you will. All of this matters as we proclaim that Christ is reconciling all things. As royal priests, we all are called to do work which anticipates the future completion and rest God is bringing to His world.
What we do now matters, and it is important to find ourselves immersed in the covenantal promises of God to cause human shalom and flourishing throughout His own beloved creation. That is, this solid, even dense, set of Biblical reflections has public implications. Christ Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the one through whom all things are created and all things are fulfilled. His quibbles about, say, N. Here are the main units of this hefty book that bridges the worlds of contemporary socio-political analysis and his previous books about pluralism and citizenship and our human longing for cultural renewal with careful exegesis of Biblical words and themes.
There are several short but meaty chapters in each major section. Believe me, he pulls more implications from these Biblical themes than most, and bases his understanding of our contemporary lives within this hopeful trajectory that God is at work bringing plans to fruition, bringing healing and hope to the cosmos. Jim has a remarkable gift of discernment and can unpack more from a passage than most. Jim Skillen is one of our best Christian thinkers today, a scholar we have long admired. He is, moreover, a top Christian political theorist who takes the Bible seriously in his academic work.
And so it is a delight to read the fruit of his many years of wrestling with the scriptural text. He challenges an individualistic narrative of sin and salvation, and articulates a rich view of creation in fresh and surprising ways. Highly recommended! All of these books are on sale and can be ordered through our secure website. Just click on the order link at the end of this column.
We will be sure to confirm everthing with a personal reply. After a hard look at hard stuff during Holy Week, we are lead through the hell of Holy Saturday and, abruptly, into the joy and hope of Easter. I think the apostle Paul and countless apologists are right in saying everything hinges on the truth of the empty tomb.
But what does it look like to be a practicing resurrectionary? And how do we bring light and goodness, victory and life, gospel grace and Kingdom power to the still broken world in which we live? Can holidays, and Christian practices connected to the resurrection really be subversive? Does faithful resurrectionary living present an alternative to the reigning status quo?
We confessed our sins, admitted our fears, came to grips with the foibles and failures of life East of Eden. David is a lover of words, a lover of truth, a lover of what some call common grace — gladly thanking God for the signs of life that pop up in even a secularized culture, offered up even by those who seem not to be religious. He has for many years been helping us understand how to understand the culture, how to see the good and the bad, the sacred and the profane.
Or, should I say, the sacred in the profane. And vice versa. In a way, this new one about America is a continuation of that project, finding how deeply wise and transformative insights show up in the best of our American dream, from our politics to our classic landscapes, our shaping documents to our best literature and song. I joked to somebody in the shop that he should have called this Everyday American Apocalypse. It seems to me that the very title indicates a change in the panic level of professor Dark, mirroring the anxiety many of us feel in these contested, Trumpian times. Now, with a vain sex offender known for his rude impetuousness and shameless dishonesty in our highest office, supported loudly by religious leaders who take pictures of themselves with him with photos of Playboy on the nearby wall, who say firmly, as Jerry Falwell, Jr.
These are awful times for the US of A, and it seems that anyone in touch with the Bible and the current political ethos simply has to wish things were otherwise. Enter David Dark, who once was a bit less outraged and a bit less consumed by the dark antics of our leaders, and who has deepened his long standing passion for Biblical justice and relating prophetic truth to current realities.
Relating faith to popular culture and current events, by the way, is not new to him. For instance, in that same serious introduction he describes his role as a teacher as the common good of attempted truthfulness. The paragraph-long explication of that sacred space is nearly worth the price of the book. I sit in classrooms with women and men in prisons and college campuses, and, together, we make assertions, put questions to one another, tell stories, read poems aloud, and wonder of our own words.
They write sentences, I write sentences next to their sentences. And we get a conversation going somehow. We attempt truthfulness together. And, teacher that he is, obsessed with weighing in, he writes, furiously at times, hoping to help us think twice. The Possibility of America, as you can tell from the title, is still not without hope.
Dark believes in the resurrection of Jesus, after all, and he loves our land. He loves our land passionately, concretely, especially as many Southerners do. Although his writing is at times dense and loaded with metaphor and allusion, he is not, finally, an abstract writer. And empathy and love and the occasional dose of self-deprecation and honest humility.
He speaks his mind, tells stories, explores American writers and singers and films, and helps us see what kind of deep patriotic wells we might draw from in order to become more Christ-like and more earnest in our civic lives. In this, he seems to be nearly a postmodern, 21 st century Will Campbell. Campbell, you might know, was a wordsmithy himself, published a theological journal, was a bit cantankerous, a Southern Baptist preacher who was a civil rights activist the only white person at the founding of the SCLC and yet friends with several Klansman.
Did I mention he draws on great America literature? Oh my, he starts with James Baldwin, and June Jordon, a hefty sign of where this might be going. Who else these days recalls the televised conversation about poetry and the detached judgment of analysis between howling Allen Ginsburg and mumbling straight-man William F.
David is a very creative writer and some may find him an acquired taste. He thinks like him, it seems to me; he sounds like him. Maybe soon, David will end up in jail, like Father Berrigan — who knows? Civil disobedience, after all, is a very American custom and Biblical thing to do.
I note that David is influenced by the Berrigans and writes in a verbose, eccentric style that is somewhat akin to poet Daniel. To Dr. Pennebaker, during a class on documentary cinema and it was not long after that that I realized the full effect of watching that gangly, assailing, yet vulnerable Bob Dylan face his captivated audience in London of Laurent, Molly Lewis, and Hilary Hulsey. Thank you for being interested in my work, and in the work of your colleagues, and for enduring my rants about how great this band called the Beatles is, and has anyone else heard about them yet?
For my sister Katie, who may all think that writing a thesis on the Beatles will mean she is spared from hearing me talk about them for a while I can assure you that you are quite wrong. As a result of these connotations, the word comes to carry unnecessarily pedantic baggage and has a reductive effect on the music it attempts to build up. Yet the desire of fans, journalists, and academics to unpack all of that baggage has never wavered. It is from this position that I launch this thesis.
I contend, however, that just because the Beatles can never fill a stadium again, and that so many fans will never be in their immediate performance space, the authenticity of their experiences as Beatles fans is no less powerful. It is simply drawn from different sources by necessity, and those sources are dependent on technology in its many forms. This thesis will provide a series of in-depth textual analyses of the Beatles as they appear in select film and television productions in order to illustrate the notion that authenticity can be interpreted from sources that are separate from although not completely independent from the musical performer in general and, here, from the Fab Four in particular.
Being the ruthlessly photographed, filmed, and written about , band that they are, the Beatles provide a particularly interesting platform from which questions of performance, authenticity, and mediation may be scrutinized. The first chapter will consider the made-for-television documentary The Beatles! Lester, Alternately, the latter two films offer evidence that the spaces that the Beatles are filmed within act as sources of authentication in themselves, as we witness the studio and stage spaces Lester had set up around the Beatles in AHDN be deconstructed in his second Beatles-centric film Help!.
I argue that all of these films necessarily spend as much effort in authenticating the means through which the Beatles are represented as performers as they do in encouraging authentic interpretations of the band and their music. I will prove that readings of authenticity do not depend on the impression that the tools of mediation, or the physical appearance of media objects within the mise en scene, be absent from performance spaces. The often self-reflexive stylistic choices and representational strategies employed in the creation of, and inside of the mise en scene of each film should be understood as essential elements that provide the means necessary for audiences to be able to understand a performance as authentic.
This concept suggests that any new media form, such as television was in relation to cinema in the s, does not seek to work with the form that came before it - perhaps television could help to convey cinematic events to a homebound audience, for example - but instead seeks to supplant it Auslander, Liveness In rejecting the representational strategies associated with any given preceding medium, Auslander suggests that new technology works on a principle of erasure. In his later book Performing Glam Rock; Auslander continues to explore how the s invited a theatricalization of rock and roll culture that manifested in glam rock.
Providing the audience with evidence of the technological mediation, or insight into the means through which a performer relies on falsities, are for Auslander the key means through which authenticity is sacrificed. The idea that evidence of mediation or of the processes of making a performer stage-ready should render a performance inauthentic is too simplistic.
A particularly problematic feature of pop music scholarship is that the majority of texts that do argue that mediation and authenticity are not mutually exclusive are applied to music video, films, and television shows that hail from the post-MTV era. As a result, the focus films in this thesis highlight the performance of the director and his camera as another source that demands authentication in addition to the performances of the musician and his music.
Given the status of the Beatles as pop royalty, it is remarkable that their films have been relatively underappreciated in film scholarship over the decades since the group gained fame. Bob Neaverson points out that a number of factors contribute to this trend. That some works remain in the Apple vaults is not aided by the nonchalant or unfavourable attitude that critics, fans, and even the Beatles themselves had towards the production process and finished versions of certain films.
With the collapse of vertical integration, film studios sought to expand their marketing methods, and by the mids many owned private record labels. Thus it is only in light of relatively recent scholarship that the pop musical began to be viewed as a subgenre of films worthy of being viewed at all Neaverson, The Beatles Movies To better suit the tight focus of this thesis, I will adopt an approach inspired by Thomas Cohen in his book Playing to the Camera , where he emphasizes close analysis of the representational strategies applied to violinists in a host of documentaries from around the Western world.
I limit myself to the considerations of the visual representations of the Beatles alone, so that I may better notice the changes in these practices which are applied to the band as both their career and the visual tendencies in performance documentation evolve throughout the mids. Given this emphasis on attention to visual style, I have purposefully chosen to juxtapose various filmic modes against each other within the confines of a single chapter. The Beatles! The work of Bill Nichols, who has provided several seminal texts on the topic of documentary cinema, will act as one of my main scholars of focus where that task is concerned.
Neil Sinyard and Jonathan Vogels, who each devote a book to Richard Lester and Albert and David Maysles see Richard Lester  and The Direct Cinema of Albert and David Maysles , respectively , will be employed throughout my textual analysis in order to discern which visual strategies belong to tradition, which are indicative of the men behind the camera.
I place increased attention upon the role that the filmmaker has in inducing readings of authenticity, which logically infers an inclusion of an auteurist approach. However, I wish to direct auteurist considerations in a precise direction rather than engage heavily in describing the individuated visual tendencies of Richard Lester or the Maysles, for example.
I will attach the work of performance studies scholars generally, and considerations of performance in rock music more specifically, to my auteurist analyses. Thus the first chapter of this thesis will be dedicated to a review of pertinent literature, the most significant of which have been briefly introduced above, and all of which demand much more detailed expansion. Here I suggest that the Maysles negate normative conceptions of physical space and temporality between locations and events in their film through their employment of close ups and their tendency to focus on various media forms within the mise en scene.
Alternatively, Lester combines representational strategies inherent to various media forms simultaneously when filming on-stage performances, emphasizing that the stage as a performance space encourages multiple readings of what stage performance as a mediated act implies. This portion of the chapter will involve close textual readings of the Beatles in on- and off-stage performance environments. In refusing to portray performance as being inherent to or reliant on a particular type of space, the Maysles film all spaces as performance spaces, alerting audiences to their involvement in a filmmaking process and aesthetic that is dictated as much by the two brothers as it is by their filmmaking equipment.
This chapter, then, will work to challenge the idea that similarities in film form is what marries these two works together, and instead suggest that the visual treatment of media technologies that the Beatles are exposed to or interact with is essentially different in each. What draws the two films together is their conception of the Beatles, and the filmmakers responsible for filming them, as performers in all kinds of spaces.
This latter film involves as the titles suggests the documentation of the first ever stadium concert event in North America of the Beatles performing live at Shea Stadium in New York. The audio footage of this concert has been notoriously overdubbed in post-production because the sonic atmosphere of the original event easily overwhelmed the cameras responsible for filming it.
Thus while my former chapter focuses on the high degree of self-reflexivity present in the performance spaces in The Beatles! The Beatles are sometimes shown in the midst of recording a song in the studio, or have been placed in a performance setting that is so unconventional not to mention impractical that any readings of Help! The ever-changing geographies featured in this film do not suggest that the Beatles as performing figures are inauthentic, but rather emphasize that the band members are capable of asserting their seemingly innate musicality no matter how removed their performances may be, visually and aurally, from the types of stage spaces they occupied so frequently in their films of Finally, with my analysis of …Shea Stadium, I intend to perform another series of close analyses but to different ends once more.
This television documentary has been studied in relation to questions of sound fidelity see Baker, , These five modes are 1 the expository mode, 2 the observational mode, 3 the interactive mode, 4 the reflexive mode, and finally, 5 the performative mode. I contend that a visual language of authenticity can, and does, reappear and is reinvented across modes. While discussions of genre are an essential method for entering discussions about observational documentaries, the qualities that mark a film as belonging to a certain genre need to be attributable to a completed work, while the word mode connotes the entire creative process of making a film whether that film is a documentary or not.
Thus discussions of the two terms should be approached differently. A mode, then, is all encompassing in its breadth and flexible in its application — so flexible that it may encompass a variety of filmic genres and generic cycles under one umbrella Baker For Nichols, the definition of the word mode emphasizes this idea of flexibility of application, and the wide range of formal characteristics it describes. Unlike genre, which Nichols notes describes entire imaginary worlds that can coexist alongside each other but which can also develop and evolve exclusively from one another, modes come into being as a direct result of the dissatisfaction that the previous mode began to impart upon its viewers Representing Reality Though modes have a comparably more aggressive point of conception than genres do, when one mode overtakes a previous one it will never thoroughly exterminate it.
The first, third, and fourth above-listed modes will only be briefly described here, for the sake of emphasizing their chronological points of inception and to allow for a clearer understanding of what each mode involves, historically, ideologically and visually. The works of John Grierson, then, represent the expository documentary mode, as does that of Robert Flaherty; this mode arose because audiences of the s through to the mid s were disenchanted with the idealistic outlooks present in Hollywood fiction films. In many ways, then, the elements that make such films effective — their argumentative logic, their tendency to present generalized facts, and their images which reject poetic tendencies in favour of straightforward and therefore objective or more realistic views of the world we all interact with — are precisely the elements that the subsequent observational mode rejects Nichols ; Baker The birth of the observational documentary brought with it the invention of a new set of technologies, which allowed for radical stylistic and political departures from the expository mode that preceded it.
It is for this reason that films of the observational mode gained a reputation for being objective works; and although this idealistic label has disintegrated in the eyes of critics and audience members, over time, the aesthetics of objectivity established in these documentaries upholds pure objectivity as an underlying goal and driving myth of the mode. It is perhaps because Albert and David Maysles had such personal involvement in the development of the relatively small and lightweight camera, equipped with a more conveniently placed viewfinder allowing the filmmaker to see what he was filming easily and synchronized sound technology capable of capturing on-location sound in real time that Albert Maysles so eagerly upholds the belief that these technologies could deliver an authentic closeness with the subject and not only the impression of it Vogels 6; The Making Of….
It is through its particular stylistic characteristics that the observational mode achieves its reputation of objectivity. Nichols notes that the observational mode instead emphasizes more abstract qualities that work towards creating an impression of everyday life, such as the feeling of lived time, often emphasized in such films through the prevalence of long takes that are sustained for much longer than those of realist fiction films Representing Reality The Maysles are special connoisseurs of the long take combined with the close up; through this stylistic technique the Maysles encourage tension and therefore dramatic moments in their non- fiction worlds because they make the burden of time lie so heavy upon the subject and viewer.
The Maysles divide screen time between Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts, each of whom is lost in his own moment of reflection as he to listens the song in its entirety. For an extended moment Charlie stares back into the camera lens, and because of the duration and close scale of the shot, the weight of the violent events that took place at Altamont resurface in his gaze.
There are no innocent close ups here, or in the catalogue of Maysles films. The reality effect is also perpetuated through certain obsessively repeated characteristics, such as the return to specific kinds of spaces. In the film Dont Look Back, Bob Dylan appearing in a string of hotel rooms, or sitting in a never-ending series of cars and trains not only contributes to the mundane reality of life on the road that D. Generic readings of the signs and signifiers within films of the observational mode, especially those that focus upon the musical performer as their main subject, are therefore readily available.
I want to use his description of the presentational mode in particular and redirect its application from the social actors in front of the camera in order to consider the reciprocal relationship between these actors, the men behind the camera, and finally the camera itself, in order to uncover a visually manifest language of performance and authenticity. To take the already-muddled definition applied to these films and stir up its waters some more, Bruzzi cautions that her thoughts on performative documentaries should not be associated with the fifth documentary mode discussed by Nichols; rather, her definition of the term is more closely associated with the ideas of J.
Austin and Judith Butler, who discuss verbal utterances — that is, words that describe an action, and complete that action upon being uttered. In particular, Bruzzi spends time differentiating between the influence of the camera and the filmmaker behind that camera when discussing observational documentaries that feature performing artists as their main subjects, and the modern performative documentary, especially since the former is so often cited as being a major influence upon contemporary performative documentaries.
The observational mode, Bruzzi states, is always obsessed with masking its means of production, and in doing so attempts to inch its way closer to reality. Thus even when featuring performing artists such as musicians, it is the performance of those on-screen artists that were intended to distract audiences from noticing the potentially obtrusive representational strategies being used in these films. Thus these two kinds of performative documentaries are not only separable by the time period they are associated with, but by their intentions and the belief systems that each documentary mode brings into relief.
The subjects of such films were indeed filmed in ways that emphasized, rather than shrouded, the presence and performance of the filmmakers behind the cameras. Working with the ideas already put forth by performance scholars such as Auslander, Frith, Waugh, and Ian Inglis. I will discuss the ways in which evidence for authentic performance can be sourced from outside of the performing bodies themselves. These aforementioned scholars investigate examples of performance that range from live musical performance, to performance art, and do not limit their discussions to film or to a specific filmic mode.
It is because these concepts of performance are so wide-reaching that I am able to use them as methodological tools to explore the ways in which the performance of a filmmaker is made manifest visually. He suggests that audiences are involved in performance just as much as the people on stage are For Frith, then, performance connotes a whole set of experiences of sociability, and he thus liberates the act of performance from the stage performer alone.
It does not help contribute to a realistic consideration of the processes the performer underwent in order to make their performance successful Frith summarizes this process with the word persona, which in the context of his book describes a process of posing and not acting and in this way, contrary to the ideas put forth by Waugh, acting — referring to the acting style common in fiction filmmaking - becomes intrinsically separated from putting on a persona. Since putting on a persona is not constrained to a specific kind of space such as the stage , nor to a specific social role the audiences performs just as the star does , it is the process of creating a persona that befits the type of performance a filmmaker puts on.
That being said, the nature of these everyday actions is culturally coded, as performance similarly is, and they change over time. Elements of performance are thus normalized, in that everyone has been through these performative processes before, at the same time that they are made spectacular. The filmmaker responsible for capturing the artist on stage is wrapped up in an entirely different type of performance than his musical subject is. Self-reflexivity rules, then, in the places where popular musicians are concerned, and this reflexivity manifests itself differently depending upon which performing subject is of focus.
In Liveness, Auslander suggests that the mysterious way in which discussion of popular music performance appears to inevitably lead to considerations of authenticity is perhaps not so mysterious at all. One of the most influential recent writers concerned with authenticity and performance studies is Moore, who decrees that authenticity should be understood as a quality that is ascribed upon a performing subject by audiences, rather than an inherent characteristic of the performer or his work Another commonality concerning authenticity, which has cropped up among scholars and pop music fans alike is that authenticity in the popular music world is becoming increasingly hard to find, if it is not already entirely extinct Auslander, Liveness 98; Gracyk, Rhythm and Noise 15; Moore The main reason for this is that mediation of musical performances regardless of genre is becoming increasingly present.
Technological mediation and an authentic performance are not mutually exclusive, however. Indeed, that authenticity may be gleaned from technological sources that fall outside of the primarily visual world of television and film only further proves the important position that technology holds in the world of popular music. What Williams fails to notice about his own work, Gracyk says, is that he is not actually discussing the performances of the songs as much as he is referring to particular recordings of them, an observation that puts emphasis on a precise series of musical moments that would not have been possible to hear without technology ii.
Thus rock music, for Gracyk, is defined as something simultaneously authentic and superficial by means of the recording technologies that are essential to record production. Performance, he suggests, ceases to be performance at all unless it can be reproduced While Gracyk is referring to the aural components of a performance here, his statement can also be applied to the visual language through which a performance is represented.
Thus performance footage of popular musicians is equally dependent upon the cameras and sound technologies that capture them to encourage interpretations of authenticity from audiences. Thus he notes that the s experienced a complete rejection of technology in elements of popular music culture that were seen as authentic. Television broadcasts of a musical group performing for an in-studio audience, then, were interpreted as being shiny and fake; so much so that television was understood to be so far outside of the realm of authenticity that Auslander suggests it played no role whatsoever in the process of authentication.
Once cameras became mobile, Auslander says that the visual syntax of televisual discourse became that of cinema Finally, in modern times, the live concert event is modeled to appear mediated and mediatized — that is, it must look like the music video that accompanies it on television or on the Internet. This concept of the parasitic media form proves that evidence of the process of mediation become part of the act of performing 31 , and also asks that accounting for the part that the filmmaker and the technologies he or she has at hand be as much a part of popular music performance discourse as analysis of the musician and his music is.
The parasitic media form is also suggests that traceability of one set of representational practices is essential to the act of authenticating a new media form. He suggests that all forms of mediation have been evolving at a constant pace over time, leading us to this present cultural moment, and to this present method of musical consumption.
Problematically, however, this attitude implies that mediation only gained its potential for being understood as an essential part of performance very recently, which in turn suggests that a connection between what audiences know is mediated and what they interpret as authentic is also only a recent phenomenon. Yet visual signs of authenticity have always been present in mediated examples of pop music performance. Considerations of the type of representational strategies being applied to the filmmaking subject, which are themselves dependent upon the filmic mode in question, change the way authenticity must be visually expressed.
The representational strategies applied to both on- and off-stage performance are transferable between modes, however, although the intentions of the filmmaker in employing those representational strategies inevitably change as the mode dictates. The similarities in representational practices must be considered in order to understand what a filmmaker bases his own performance upon, much like the musician on-stage is conscious of the famous performances in music history when he goes on stage in front of his audience.
Cohen offers a series of close visual analyses in his work that help to create a case for the relevance of studying representational strategies applied to musical performers. The subject of study in his fourth chapter, for example, is that of the documented faces of violin players in international documentaries Cohen is so invested in the significance of the visuals of musical performance, in fact, that he does not differentiate between a mediated work and the live experience of a performance.
Instead, he oscillates between discussing the performances of the filmic subject and the nature of the visuals applied to him or her, without discussing the ontological distinctions between the types of performance that each element connotes. Mick Jagger, in his flamboyant costume and with his distinctive dancing at the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont in is not differentiated from the version of himself that was shot and edited together in the performance footage captured in Gimme Shelter. Cohen has a very precise definition of performance, however, which interestingly lies in contrast with discussions surrounding performance studies generally especially those of Frith , and with documentary filmmaking discourse.
In expressing these ideas, Cohen is also indicating that a very particular set of representational strategies is what offers him an authentic-looking vision of a performance and he seems to favour the documentary tradition, equating it with live stage performance. Guitar players, he notes, do not so easily suffer from a visual separation from their body at large, mainly because guitars sit at the hip and call for longer shot scales. A guitarist might be visually detached from his role as a singer or vice-versa, however, since it is less interesting to a viewer to watch a concert from a long shot scale and it is impossible to offer viewers a close up of a face simultaneously with the guitar they hold.
The violinist, however, does not offer the cameraman this problem. Cohen effectively highlights the ways in which seemingly simplistic or conventional choices are indicative of wider cultural values. Most simply, it shows that the way a performer is filmed is just as important as the performing body itself. Literature devoted to the Beatles is mostly concerned with their music and not with their films.
He also muses on the reasons why their film collection was allowed to become so diverse and full of experimentation Indeed, repetition of information or of analytical conclusions must be the element that weakens Beatles literature on a larger scale. The criticism concerning specific directors that have worked with the Beatles, specifically the Maysles and Lester, Also helps to paint a larger picture about the Beatles films that span filmic modes but nonetheless are unified by their inclusion in this film canon.
While repetition of facts haunts these auteurist works as it does Beatles literature, there are some particularly relevant repetitions to note. The view that authenticity has fostered an uneasy relationship with technology and methods of mediation only in recent decades is one that puts pre-MTV examples of popular music performance into an overly romanticized perspective.
Sources of authenticity are ever changing, and the sheer diversity of sources from which it may be interpreted, even in regards to a singular band, are overwhelming. Chapters Two and Three will highlight the ways in which the films that feature the Beatles offer a wealth of sources from which authenticity, and especially its codependent relationship with technological means of mediation, may be deciphered.
After completion, the film was released via television to Great Britain in February of as a minute segment entitled Yeah Yeah Yeah! The Beatles in New York, and then was subsequently released in patchwork form to American audiences later that year Reiter It is the irregular nature of its release, and also its status as a work of televised nonfiction contributes to the fact that The Beatles!
That the identity of the Maysles and their particular presence as filmmakers is never excluded from discussions of their films makes a consideration of their relationship with their filmic subjects an essential one. In the five decades that Albert Maysles has been making films, his position regarding the role of his camera has remained consistent. In short, the Maysles and their camera are performers who are subject to interpretations of authenticity. The idea of a camera representing or reflecting the artistic presence of the director is one that the auteur theory was founded upon.
In The Beatles! Rather, the cinema of the Maysles encourages audiences to understand the aesthetic influence of the tools of mediation to the same degree that they may desire to understand the filmmaker as an artist. I hope to show that both The Beatles! Visit Performance is the primary theme in The Beatles! The early films of the Maysles were all concerned with unpacking the conception of the American celebrity in some way, as with Showman , which follows the skilled movie salesman Joseph Levine, or Meet Marlon Brando which captures a series of interviews given by a very sarcastic Brando over the course of a single day, and indeed with The Beatles!
In doing away with stagnant shots taken from cameras placed on stable tripods that might capture a musical performance, for example, the musician in question can be filmed from new angles that reveal a renewed sense of closeness between performer and his audience. One of the more frequently discussed sequences in The Beatles! Hey Beatles, this way! While this occurs, the Maysles focus their mechanical eye upon the sea of still photo cameras as opposed to the faces of the photographers holding them , and it becomes apparent that Albert, too, is silently mocking the photographers for their slowness that has everything to do with their working medium.
As Baker notes, this sequence is significant for two major reasons: that it displays the close relationship that the Maysles achieved with the Beatles, and also that it provides documentation of the act of documentation Thus for scholars David Ehrenstien and Bill Reed, the fact that the Beatles were in a constant state of performance made them less interesting, because the goals of an observational documentary which included allowing its viewers an all-access pass to the secret lives of their favourite stars did not seem to work on them.
Indeed, the photo shoot as a whole seems a bit of a mess: the Maysles avoid granting viewers an establishing shot of the situation and instead offer a disorienting whip pan, thus characterizing the blurred group of photographers as a like-minded mass who work for the types of popular media outlets that the Beatles and the Maysles must simply endure. In applying unconventional views of their subjects to their audience, the Maysles make their own performance apparent. The Maysles ensure that virtually every scene in The Beatles!
From an objective viewpoint, it is easy to understand why this scene was cut from the final film: David appears in it, which creates a level of self-reflexivity that would have upset the objective reputation of observational filmmaking as the s defined it. For audiences of and onward, however, this scene is the perfect example of the type of extreme reflexivity audiences are comfortable with and fascinated by, and thus The Making of… documentary stands as an important illustration of how those expectations have changed over time.
These terms describe the clear, compositional aesthetic applied to performing subjects via a stable camera and good lighting conditions, versus a more free from, stylized, and abstracted documentation style respectively It is a technology-heavy scene, as the camera becomes the topic of conversation and pieces of it are visible in the shot.
Most problematically for the Maysles but beneficial for my project is the revelation that the technologies responsible for capturing the Beatles onscreen are at least as, if not more, interesting than the Beatles themselves. Laying bare the contrivance of their pop cultural takeover of America in aligns the Beatles not with the corporations that work to exploit their image but rather with the ideals of the friendly filmmakers, Albert and David.
Indeed, the Maysles are the true performers in this sequence, in that the mechanics behind their filmmaking strategies become very much exposed. Here is the mechanical equivalent of catching Paul Anka in his underwear in his dressing room. These select examples from The Beatles! The influence across all of these visual mediums works reciprocally.
Any representation of media technologies is inseparable from a discussion of the representational strategies that have been applied to performance spaces in the visualization of popular music over the decades. These spaces stand in contrast to stage space, which may refer to the music hall, television or film studio.
For example, Baker notes that the visual strategy most commonly applied to on-stage concert footage is that of frontality, where the camera is positioned so as to mimic the frontal point of view of the audience members. While the representational strategies that are applied to certain performance spaces account for how audiences are encouraged to interpret authenticity from those performances, this effect is also dependent upon the ontology of the type of mediation being employed. For the Maysles, the technique of their newly designed camera consuming the less-than-authentic media forms that similarly attempt to mediate the Beatles manifests itself in their visual override of those media objects.
The Maysles tend to film the Beatles in the same way regardless of the type of performance space they inhabit. In The Making of…. Because The Beatles! Auslander insists that television in particular is a medium that must be understood to be mutually exclusive from interpretations of authenticity Liveness The live event, he says, involves total spatial and temporal co-presence, while the recorded event, such as the fiction film or previously recorded radio programs, account for spatial and temporal absence For all of its shiny, carefully staged mediation, says Wurtzler, television carries important characteristics of a truly live event, the most important of these characteristics being that it is experienced as live by the home viewing audience.
The fact that within The Beatles! The camera work of the Maysles does not deny this impression, but they deal with the reputation of the medium in an interesting way that results in a Wurtzler-esque impression of closeness to the performer onstage: they add another layer of mediation, and this time the right kind of mediation of the footage broadcast on television in , which is perhaps not television as Auslander would define it.
Albert visually erases the representational strategies inherent to studio television filmmaking by impressing upon the set his characteristic representational strategy, the close-up. Neaverson suggests that AHDN "grants the illusion of documentary style realism," achieved because the Beatles are effectively "playing themselves" in real locations and with naturalistic lighting, all of which are qualities normally attributed to observational documentary's form.
The essential similarities between the films reside in the nature of the self-reflexive representational strategies employed. My previous analysis supposed that The Beatles! In borrowing the aesthetic strategies associated with these burgeoning filmmaking movements that were born in the s, Lester both showcases these strategies without having to subscribe to their politics. His work was everything that the Maysles opposed, but it was in his television work that Lester mastered the craft of creating the illusion of spontaneity through total control of his medium Bluestone During his work on commercials, for example, Lester learned to be very precise with his framing and to edit them together very quickly — evidence of which can be learned from reading the production history of AHDN, which was filmed over the span of only two months and which was cut in just two and a half weeks Ebert, n.
While Sinyard suggests that the real star of AHDN is the camera itself 32 , this statement prevents the Beatles, as unique performers, from forging a participatory relationship with Lester's camera. Indeed, Frith and Neaverson suggest that when performers are treated merely as performers, they are reduced to being aesthetic objects that are essentially replaceable Frith, ; Neaverson, This approach grants the camera and the filmmakers too much power. Cohen notes that at least two of the Beatles are often staged around a single microphone in order to achieve their famous harmonies, and also to promote the impression of group unity Here the television studio set has been revealed to viewers in a state of construction, wherein all the hard work that goes into making a final performance seem spontaneous is revealed Romney Props are scattered about, the television cameras are not yet in position, and crewmembers crawl around the stage space like ants.
John sits down with his acoustic guitar directly beside Ringo, and Paul plays to Ringo's right. Thus the stage and the moment of musical performance is made equivalent to the fantasy space that Romney maintains backstage areas usually hold in the pop musical Here the Beatles as musicians are romanticized in that they are seemingly unable to resist using the stage space for song, regardless of its deconstructed state.
Indeed, the Beatles are attracted to stages in this film and never resist spontaneous performance, but the nature of those performances suggests that the band members not only control the spaces where they perform, but are self-aware of the type of performance demanded of them at all times. At times, John neglects to strum his guitar or to lip-synch, and George often does not pretend to sing at all. In addition to these medium shots of the Beatles that are determined to represent the band not giving in to the conventions of staged performance, Lester employs shots of the band taken from behind, which in turn neglects the faces and fingers of all of the band members.
It is in these moments, where Lester does not seem interested in capturing the faces of his performers or their instruments that his camerawork contributes to the stylization of performance as something superfluous Cohen This camera offers shaky hand-held shots, mainly close-ups of the largely female fans, achieving a spontaneously artful aesthetic by including views from behind the rails of the balcony and by employing whip pans to achieve an impressionistic, abstracting vision of the screaming audience.
Standing in contrast to the more lived, thrilling experience of the Beatle fan is the relatively more controlled view of the composed and professional television cameraman responsible for recording the performance for television. When Lester allows his viewers glimpses of the television monitors inside of the control room on stage right, he not only steps over the boundaries that separate the stage space from backstage space during a musical performance, no less , but he also momentarily submits to the power of the televised image, which here offers us an alternative means to see the Beatles perform on stage.
In the background of the shot sit the audience members, and this staging suggests the presence of a television audience — those at home watching their screens, being exposed to these selectively framed shots of the Beatles — and not only a live studio audience. The boundaries between the various on- and off-stage spaces defined by Romney are made completely fluid here, and this is due to the compounded aesthetics of multiple filmic modes all employed upon one sustained instance of musical performance.
Lester achieves the impression of authenticity in this heavily media-object populated sequence because of his decision to embrace the aesthetic, and by proxy the theoretical, effects of a multiplicity of media modes simultaneously. The continued success and relevance of both The Beatles! There is sociological evidence that audiences have developed and maintained a favourable relationship with the self-reflexive presence of media tools in the face of performance at large. Indeed, I argue that for contemporary audiences who see MTV aesthetics as normative, or for audiences of who may have been more surprised to see Lester separate conventional musical performance from its soundtrack, evidence of mediation is essential to that effect.
Even given all of the examples in which these directors defy the conventions of representational strategies applied to musical performance, the Beatles are consistently occupying the type of on- and off-screen spaces that typify a rockumentary. In these films, the Beatles are at risk of being overwhelmed by their performance venue, or evacuate normative performance spaces respectively. I argue in my previous chapter that even those who watched the Beatles on television felt a distinct proximity to the band members as a result of two factors: first, the filmmakers capturing the band neutralized the felt effects of that distance by means of their representational strategies of choice; second, the filmic mode particular to each filmmaker in question helped to dictate the effective execution of those strategies.
In the interest of keeping consistent with the organization that characterized Chapter Two, which explored the films of focus chronologically, this chapter will begin with an analysis of Help! As performers, too, the Beatles are growing apart from the confinement of the stage, which …Shea Stadium proves is a location that can no longer serve the Beatles efficiently.
Indeed, Help! Since the rockumentary is a genre that is dependent upon the use and re-use of a catalogue of settings in order to allow audiences to read them most effectively and in an attempt to keep up with the system of analysis that I have already established in earlier chapters , I intend to offer a more aesthetically-oriented reading of the way that the spaces the Beatles perform within over the course of Help!
Over the course of Help! While Help! By inserting the non-functional sound equipment and unplugged electric guitars into the mise-en-scene of the geographically disparate performance settings, Lester suggests that the Beatles are moving away from the dangerous hassle of live performance by instead highlighting the status of their songs in this film as recorded, consumable objects, separate from the traditional aesthetics of live performance.
This documentary is one that is focused upon much more than the concert at hand which was a grand enough event on its own , but is also a mediation on the difficulties that crop up while attempting to capture a live event of such proportions on film. The Beatles as performing bodies in this documentary do not provide the evidentiary information that documentary subjects typically do, and so in the context of …Shea Stadium they can only serve to inspire authenticity up to a point.
In …Shea Stadium, the geography of performance space is investigated as compensation for the misinformation provided by the performing body. The most important departure however, at least in the context of this thesis, is the fact that the Beatles have been utterly removed from the types of performance spaces that they usually populate.
The narrative of Help! Much like.. Shea Stadium, which seeks to familiarize viewers with the venue and even the geography surrounding it, Help! To aid in achieving this transformation, Help! In addition, because of its status as a fiction film, Help! Narratively, the Beatles as song-makers is irrelevant to the plot of Help!. Their songs are already written, they have no deadlines and there is no final show to play at the end of the film as there is in AHDN. While it is true that Help! Logistically and ontologically, of course, all the songs that exist in a pop musical are recordings, but it is in Help!
This sequence is one that catches the attention of causal viewers, critics, and scholars the most easily. The representational strategies instead highlight that the Beatles are lip-synching their songs, in exotic locales that are inhospitable to musical performance of the live or even the staged variety. The fact that Help!
However, Help! Sinyard notes that Help! Even given the general praise and high box office return garnered for the film, its reviews were not as shining as those for AHDN. Much of the negative critical reception of Help! While Seelye does not specify which portions of the film offend him so in his review, he is almost certainly discussing the song sequences, the stylistic features of which are so experimental in comparison to those applied to the rest of the film that these sequences seem to halt the narrative altogether. Still, if these sequences seem, if not surprising, then at least unconventional to contemporary audiences, they likely would have struck audiences of as very artful indeed there are legends surrounding the reception of these musical sequences in Help!
The status of the songs in Help! As well, the Beatles seem to realize that these songs do not require their expressive potential to be considered complete. Bluestone This highly staged screened performance, which looks like it is something out of AHDN, is the only one of its type that will appear in this film that darts speckle the screen throughout the performance is perhaps making mocking commentary on the sort of conventional types of performances that the Beatles used to give, but which they are growing out of by That the Beatles are musicians is of course emphasized, but the idea that they must function as beings who are either on-stage and performing, or waiting for the opportunity to be on stage in order to express their musicality is too restrictive, and indeed too repetitive for a film that needed to play follow-up to AHDN.
In considering the effect of the musical sequences overall, it is notable that the Beatles sing along to at least one of their songs in each new space or location they arrive in. The guitars are not plugged in, the Beatles only sometimes pretend to lip-synch, and they also never stay still. Thus, in order to be rendered as authentic performers in Help!
At least, the objects that are related to the filming of these musical performances are made invisible — but the tools used for making a record are now given spotlight. The Beatles seem intent upon recording some songs in the midst of this grassy field, and this time their performances are intercut with footage of Clang and his band of scoundrels attempting to ambush the Beatles from all sides even underground.
What audiences of this particular sequence are offered as means of authentication is the Beatles making a record outdoors in this expansive field. The visualization of the props needed to make a record are the feature of this musical sequence, although it is significant that all of the work the goes into that process is bypassed. Far from being a deterrent in regards to authentic interpretations of these sequences, however, it is in acknowledging the omnipresence of the recorded song that Help! For contemporary audiences, of course, the recordings that are played throughout Help!
In this way, Help! However, during the early and mids the Beatles were also frequently on television and had already had the two feature-length films discussed in Chapter Two made about them, with …Shea Stadium on the way. As Help! It is arguably the musical sequences in Help!
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That the Beatles are becoming more ostracized by their fans is an issue navigated by technology and by the products of those technologies — specifically, the visible presence of sound technologies and the music records they produce. In the scholarly community, the film is perhaps most well known for its aural and visual touch-ups, however. In order for the soundtrack to be brought up to television broadcasting standards, the Beatles were required to overdub all of their songs in-studio in early Baker As such, the final edit of this documentary tells the story of the difficulties in visually capturing this hectic event as much as it attempts to document the performances it is composed of.
The visual style of the documentary is composed of a combination of representational strategies, though these are not as diverse as the strategies that Lester juxtaposes against one another in AHDN. In contrast, …Shea Stadium is a made-for-television documentary that is conceptually much less ad-hoc than The Beatles! During their performances of ten songs from albums new and old at the stadium, the Beatles are frequently granted low angle medium shots and are constantly being reframed.
In longer shot scales, the Beatles alternate between looking very small, overwhelmed by their stage space and its empty black background, or are granted close-ups, which capture the intense physical effort put into this performance. The concert took place outdoors in August in New York, and so the band members are sweating even before they get on stage. Thus the physical actions of the subjects of this documentary consistently emphasize the lack of sufficient sound technology at the stadium, while the comparably clear re-dubbed soundtrack plays on.
Shea Stadium is incapable of delivering.