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In a freeflowing discussion of the Hist Crit vs. Postmod debate (kicked off by George Aichele et al’s JBL article and John Van Seters’ reply), James Crossley (Sheffield survivor) further problematizes the general opposition which has been assumed between historical criticism and postmodernism and makes his own comments on most of the points at issue.

At the beginning of his post, James refers to Leif Vaage’s “comments” on the book James co-wrote with Mike Bird (How Did Christianity Begin?: A Believer and Non-Believer Examine the Evidence, 2008). He is referring to this month’s RBL review. Incidentally, I first encountered James Crossley when I reviewed a book he wrote called Jesus in an Age of Terror (2008), for the world’s leading journal on the Bible and Critical Theory (forthcoming). If I had known he has the habit of writing replies to reviews which are longer than the reviews themselves, I would have been far more provocative. (Jesus in an Age of Terror is a great read, by the way – good summer holiday reading at this time of the year.)

There is an implied question directed to me, in James’ post, about my opinion on the similarities between the so-called “postmodern” approaches and the (again so-called) “historical-critical” approaches. I think I’m headed in a quite similar direction.

At one point, in discussions with Roland and Stephanie, we wondered about a description “critical reading” which cuts somewhat across the boundaries of that which has been divided between “hist-crit” and “postmod” positions, while not including all that is included under each. I’m more comfortable with that – where “reading” attempts to establish meaning within (as well as prompted by, i.e., reception) texts rather than mere uses of texts, and “critical” refers to social scientific methods aimed at knowledge of the textual objects (close reading, source crit, narratology, structuralism, philology, reader reception, hauntology, etc).

But, I don’t know so much about the usefulness of “the logic of late capitalism”. Insofar as this idea refers to the fragmentation of modern society under the hegemony of capitalist hyper-commodification, it names an important aspect of what has been included within the rather too-broad and so largely counterproductive term of postmodernism. But I suspect it buys into the facile idea (bequeathed to us by a certain Nineteenth-century mindset) of progress through universal stages of social development. With other members of the Dunedin School, I prefer to view many of the apects assigned to postmodernism as merely another stage in the ongoing dialectic between rationalism and irrationalism, not peculiar to our own age – and which involves a complex mix of lurches to the irrational as well as the more critically rational. The demise of the system of Capital is another process coinciding with these aspects of postmodernism, but to which these aspects do not simply reduce, and which will carry on even if there is a lurch back to positivism in the future.