The sense of a beginning : Bakhtinian dialogic criticism on 'the Gospel' in Mark
Contemporary literary approaches have caused paradigm shifts in Biblical Studies in the last two decades as it appears in a great deal of Markan studies using narrative, reader-response, deconstructive, feminist, and new historicist approaches. However, literary studies on the Gospel of Mark have not taken into account theoretical questions underlying those approaches. As a result biblical critics are driven by new trends without ever having a chance to examine the critical baggage of the approaches. Consequently, there is a gap of communication between the old and the new one. Therefore this thesis is an attempt to meet the need of enhancing the quality of critical endeavour in biblical studies. In the light of most recent competing critical theories of literature, the first contribution of this thesis is the methodological finding that Bakhtinian dialogic criticism contains the most profound philosophical and practical foundations for solving some crucial theoretical problems in contemporary literary theories. It is a critique to a Saussurian linguistic system of language which becomes the very foundation of modern and postmodern literary criticism. Bakhtinian literary theory shifts the foundation of literary criticism on linguistic signs into the creative activity of the socio-cultural production of human communication. The shift into socio-cultural reality of language communication makes the notion of 'genre' very important to unlock the problem of text and context in literary studies. Since the Gospel of Mark has fascinated most literary critics in Biblical Studies, the problem of 'genre' of this gospel is chosen as the focus of this study. Secondly, as no agreement is reached as to what 'genre' the Gospel of Mark belongs, this thesis makes its contribution to the discussion by locating the problem of 'genre' of Mark in the context of genre theories and argues that the Bakhtinian suggestion to find genre in the socio-cultural sphere by analysing artistic intercourse between narrative agents in Mark has freed the competing analysis from the unresolved problem between the kerygmatic (content oriented) approach and the analogical (form oriented) approach. To achieve finding 'genre' in the socio-cultural sphere, this thesis focuses on Bakhtinian analysis of the process of artistic intercourse between narrative agents. The narrative communicative interrelationships between narrative agents is constructed in this thesis as a 'stereophonic' Bakhtinian model of dialogic communication. This model is an original contribution of this thesis for revising the traditional two dimensional model of narrative communication. Based on this dialogical model of communication, a special role is given to the Bakhtinian 'author-creator' in the realization process of genre through the interaction of polyphonic voices. Through the interaction of voices of the author-artist and the hero we are led to discover a relatively stable type of portraying and controlling reality in Mark, known as the genre of Roman 'satire'. The closest literary affinity is Satyrica by Petronius. This narrative strategy of 'satire' in Mark has its root in the prophetic discourse of the Old Testament which is saturating the speech of the narrator, John the Immerser, the centurion, the people, and even Jesus. Finally, the whole search for Markan 'genre' culminates in the analysis of the realization of genre through the analysis of Bakhtinian chronotope. The reality of the genre of Mark is its social reality that is in its role as dpxrj/ 'beginning'. As the Gospel of Mark proclaims itself as 'a beginning', it defines its claim of socio-cultural 'authority' in early Christianity. It is this 'sense of beginning' which enables the narrating and the narrated world of Mark to interact dialogically.