I am a great fan of Narrative Criticism as a tool for understanding the Scriptures. I am also rather keen on the results that the intelligent use of Rhetorical Criticism throws up. In fact, I guess you could say that Narrative Criticism and Rhetorical Criticism are the same thing for just two different sorts of genre: both work on the assumption that if you understand something about the kind of text you are reading and the rules that govern that genre, you will come closer to understanding the intention of the author and the meaning of the text.
We saw the film “Hotel for Dogs” with the kids on the weekend. Before we went into the cinema, and only with the barest idea of what the film was about, I told the kids what the story line would be. Orphaned kids save stray dogs, hide them in an old hotel, get chased by the police/city pound, catastrophe is followed by eucatastrophe (a little bit of Tolkien thrown in there) and everyone ends up living happily every after. As soon as the film started, it was clear that the orphans would be adopted by their social worker and his wife. Everything went according to script. Maddy said afterwards: “It had The Narrative.” They teach primary school kids things like that here.
Anyway, it isn’t only in fiction that there are arguments over narrative. History is a minefield for that. You think it is about “facts”, but it is really about the way in which the facts are strung together. Thus we get the different narratives of Palestine and Israel driving the current conflict, Bishop Williamson’s disagreement about the established narrative of the Shoah, etc.
Preparing for the new program of Reading Paul (see the previous blog), I was reading Tom Wright’s short popular commentary on Acts “Acts for Everyone”, and came across this clanger on page 74 of the second volume:
Just north of where I am writing this, and visible from not far away, is the small but famous island of Lindisfarne, commonly known as ‘Holy Island’. It was the first beachhead of Christian faith in England, long before the Romans sent Augustine from Rome to the south of England to annexe the flourishing native movement on behalf of the increasingly powerful Roman see.
Well, I guess that’s one narrative. Another would be that St Gregory was sending St Augustine on an Christian mission to preach the gospel.