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Dear Jerome,
 
Thank you for all this wonderful information.  I am not qualified to evaluate what seem to me differing accounts; I wonder what you would think of King's translation and commentary.  I use it for a course in Women's Studies to show them that there are many ways to address questions of a religion (all the major ones I suppose) that has been interpreted as based on a single god who is male (despite alternate claims that god is spirit and without gender).  We also read selections from Rosemary Radford Reuther's collection, though it is now out of print and I need to find an alternative.  And they see the film Behind the Veil--also now not available.  I bought a used one online.  But you see I am not a Biblical scholar--just fascinated by religion.  I read (at various times depending on what I'm writing) religious literature, and I think it is not sufficiently addressed in most feminist classes despite the many feminist theologians.  In any case, if you have a chance to look at King's edition, I'd love to know your response.  One theme of this particular class is, in fact, recovery--of many kinds of texts.  So this one fits in both the topic of religion and the theme that ties it to other material "recovered" after being neglected.  Now I will have to do some careful review of the topic of this one's publishing history.
 
This translation, by the way, is also very short--a few fragments but quite continuous.  It is also more than two and a half pages, but King has photographed the pages, so the facsimile might be longer than your print edition.  In print, hers is almost 6 pages, but it includes variants from each of the three versions.
 
the text from 1896 is in coptic and is entitled the Berlin Codex.  An Egyptologist, Carl Schmidt, set about translating right away but was slowed from the beginning by missing and jumbled pages and then by WWI. After he died in 1938, several kinds of setbacks continued for others--including WWII.  But according to King, "no new copies of Gospel of Mary were found at Nag Hammadi," though two of the other texts originally found with it were.  It is all very complex, but she lists three versions:  the Berlin Codex (in Coptic), the Papyrus Rylands 463 (in Greek), and the Papyrus Oxrhynchus 3525 (in Greek). 
 
Best,
Nancy

>>> Jerome Walsh <[log in to unmask]>01/06/10 4:57 PM >>>
Dear Nancy,

My sources are two (that's all I have in my home library).

1. A reference collection, New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1: Gospels and related writings, by Edgar Hennecke, edited by Wilhelm Schneemecher, English translation edited by R. McL. Wilson (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963 [published in Great Britain by Lutterworth]).  The German original was published in 1959 by J. C. B. Mohr, Tuebingen.  In that volume, the "translation" of the Gospel of Mary appears to me to be, as you surmise, not a complete rendering of the whole text, but a summary with translations of selected passages (though this is not entirely clear--see my remark below).  Notes list a complete German translation, with full Coptic text, from 1955, and an English translation (apparently complete) in a book entitled Gnosticism: An Anthology, from 1961.

2. Also a reference collection, but intended for ease of access for interested non-scholars, The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M. Robinson ("third, completely revised edition"; San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988).  [First edition was 1977.  That's not bad, considering that the Nag Hammadi library was not discovered until 1945, and the translation team for this volume met first in 1966.  The existence, and perhaps even some version of the content, of a "Gospel of Mary" may have been known, as you say, from the end of the nineteenth century, but from a scholarly point of view one has to ask about the quality and reliability of the textual witnesses at that time.  Before the discoveries at Nag Hammadi, I suspect that what was available was relatively modern undated manuscript copies (many of them probably still in liturgical use), and no one had gotten around to doing the text-critical work necessary to establish a critical edition.  Nag Hammadi changed all that by providing MSS from the fourth century CE.  The critical editions of the Coptic texts were published in the mid-1970s, and the first complete English translation appeared in 1977.  That's pretty impressive alacrity, I would say!  And the availability of a German translation in 1955 is even more amazing.]  In the 1988 third edition of The Nag Hammadi Library, the Gospel of Mary is presented as a complete rendering of the extant material in Coptic and/or Greek (and it's pretty short--less than two and a half pages--which may imply that the version in New Testament Apocrypha is more complete that it appears).  It is headed by the following:  "Introduced by Karen L. King; Translated by George W. MacRae and R. McL. Wilson; Edited by Douglas M. Parrott."  In the book's Table of Contents, all four names are listed with no further description of each's role.
    I have no idea whether the Greek fragment King says was discovered in 1983 has been used in the 1988 translation or not.  King's introduction to the translation makes no mention of such a fragment.

Since both of these books are published by mainstream publishers in the field of biblical studies, and the second, at least, is certainly affordable (my copy still has a "half-price" sticker on it of $7.98--for 550 pages!), they are certainly not the sort of esoteric resource one can only find in a research library.  I have no doubt that the Robinson is a standard text for courses on Gnosticism.

Jerry Walsh


From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Wed, January 6, 2010 11:29:19 AM
Subject: Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism

Dear Jerome,
 
Thanks for the information.  It seems different from the "Introduction" in my copy of King's 2003 text.  She notes a German translation in 1955 as the first printed edition, and a new discovery of a Greek fragment in 1983.  This 2003 version is King's translation (a new one) according to the cover and publication page.  MacRae and Wilson are listed in her bibliography, but they look to me like sections of books of and on Gnosticism rather than a single Gospel edited and introduced, as is this one in 2003.
 
Perhaps what is new is a single book translated with extensive editorial material, introduction, and commentary.  So this would be a different kind of text I think.   The kind of text you note would not, I assume, be readily available to teach with as this is. I think what I am seeing as so important is the move from a version likely to be only in a library or owned by scholars like yourself to an available and accessible book in paperback that can be in an undergraduate curriculum.  So perhaps it emphasizes Guillory's point.  Is that the case?
 
But I needed to go over it again to see that there is an earlier English version.  Thanks--I always appreciate knowledge; I certainly would never resent a correction, which opens more value and understanding.
Best,
Nancy

>>> Jerome Walsh 01/06/10 11:51 AM >>>
Dear Nancy,

I hope you will forgive a couple corrections of data.  The Gospel of Mary Magdalene has been available in English at least since the early 1960s, and Karen King's piece on it was not a translation, but an introduction to a translation by George W. MacRae and R. McL. Wilson; that translation, with King's introduction, was published long before 2003.  My edition (called "third, completely revised edition") appeared in 1988.

Jerry Walsh, biblical lurker


From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Wed, January 6, 2010 10:06:15 AM
Subject: Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism

Dear Diana,
 
I'm not at all sure it is possible in practice.  I also have not read The Library of Babel, but the quotation from John Guillory is from a discussion of the difference between a library and a school.  (In Cultural Capital) We tend to assume that the "important" literature is what is taught in schools because that is what we know.  So when Virginia Woolf wrote, in 1929 in A Room of One's Own, that some enterprising young women from Newnham and Girton should go to libraries and find out what women were doing all those centuries, it turned out to be what later feminist scholars did do.  That is, there really was a mass of writing by women; it just had not been distributed--reprinted, published, reviewed, discussed, taught.  A fascinating example is The Gospel of Mary Magdala .  It has been known about since the end of the 19th century, but an English translation was only published by Karen King in 2003.  It was there; it was just now known. Yet it is from the 2nd century, and there are 3 extant copies, one or two in Coptic which was used by Egyptian Christians.  That means it had to have been widely known and circulated in the small Christian community of the time, given how few mss. existed at all, let alone were saved, even in fragments.  And it is a fascinating representation of Mary and Jesus.
 
So Eliot's "mind of Europe" depended on the continued teaching of a specific canon, not on the existing writings in libraries.  So much is now available that was lost.  But how to distribute such a mass of material is not something I know either--hence my question.  It may mean that at least new books be always available and more and more be made so.  But I personally think paper books were an incredible technology likely to long outlast electronic material: computers keep being updated and crashing and older files cannot even be accessed on new equipment.  Unless some uniform and sustained structure develops as a standard, I fear all these digitized books will just disappear for use even if they exist eternally in cyberspace.  (Any computer savvy answers on the list?) As someone who loves libraries with books in paper, I am dubious in any case; I find things that just would never turn up on the internet (like the letters Eliot wrote to Maurice Lindsay).  The problem with working on databases is that you only find what you look for--I love serendipity, and much of my most interesting discoveries come from that.  Who would ever find those letters by deciding to put Lindsay and Eliot together into Google? I doubt that would turn it up anyway.  (OK--I just tried it, and a lot came up linking the names because Lindsay died last April and obituaries mention the connection.  He died while I was in Scotland and had already read the letters. But what is on Google might send you to some of the stuff, not all.  And who would think to do that anyway unless they read the Scottish and English obits?)
 
In other words, I don't know, but it is a fascinating question and problem.
Cheers,
Nancy
>>> Diana Manister 01/06/10 10:17 AM >>>
Dear Nancy,
 
What could a "total library" possibly be? I'm surprised at this illusion that texts could somehow be totalized. I understand the intention to be more complete, but "total"?
 
I haven't read "The Library of Babel" but surely he qualifies the notion of totalization in it? I'll search it out.
 
Diana
 

Date: Sun, 3 Jan 2010 22:04:34 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism
To: [log in to unmask]

I agree with this commentary, though I wonder how it can be made to exist in the current state of publishing.  Possibly one could have a total virtual library--though I love paper but could print out I assume--but how do you see a reader finding a way through a total library?  This is a real question--I think Borges is right, but the books that have been recovered have, ironically, been the ones in libraries.  Recovery has to include some distribution.
Cheers,
Nancy

>>> 01/03/10 7:55 PM >>>
One strength of Borges' conception of the open, inclusive library is that texts disfavored at the time of their creation or subsequently but widely read and appreciated by later audiences and then again disfavored would have a perpetual home in the tradition, available for recovery and rereading. That approach would avoid the need for scholars like Judith Fetterley to "recover" and resurrect even relatively recent texts that a male dominated publishing industry has rendered unavailable. Borges' library is a helpful precondition for the preservation of work by incompletely or never enfranchised writers. It avoids the problem of Gray's unseen blushing rose and renders us the richer while at the same time permitting the possibility of learning from a wider range of thought than that allowed by a patriarchal tradition implicitly driven and limited by contemporary bias and the limits of market capitalism.


-----Original Message-----
From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Sun, Jan 3, 2010 4:37 pm
Subject: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism

I think these are just examples of points of departure. [both come from the conclusions of the articles if you wish to check them.]  But both strike me as ways of thinking that are not present in most of what we read.  I do not have any investment in either claim; I just find them deeply interesting and unlike most Anglo-American discussions, though I think Hugh MacDiarmid took a line much like that of Borges in his vision of worldwide inclusion. I would love to hear reactions:
 
From "Jorges Luis Borges Rewrites Eliot" by Juan E. De Castro:
 
More than Eliot's Eurocentric and rather abstract literary order, Borges's tradition is a 'library, where ideally everything is preserved and where the system of preservation makes no distinction at all between good books and bad' (Guillory 1995, 240). The library is one of the central figures in Borges's writings; indeed, in 'Poem of the Gifts', he claims "I imagined paradise as a library' (1996m 146). Borges explored the notion of the 'total library'--a library that includes every possible book--in his essay of the same name and, in nightmarish terms, in his story, 'The Library of Babel'.
 
                                                                                . . . 
 
Borges's conceptualization of tradition as a library implies a denial of qualitative classification based on influence, content, place of origin, language or putative quality.  Moreover, he hints at the possibility of a non-Eurocentric version of literary tradition that would include, but not be limited to, the literary monuments of Europe.  His denial of chronology and his privileging of the act of reading in the constitution of tradition is designed to empower writers from apparently marginal or supposedly new countries.  In this, as in his ability to combine Eutopean cultural elements with local Argentine and non-Western elements, Borges is indeed, as Aizenerg maintained, a 'postcolonial precursor', who is 'for postcolonial writers . . . a reference point beyond his general preeminence in a European-North American repertoire of culture'.
     Yet it is necessary to keep in mind that Borges's vision of tradition is a modification--even radicalization--of ideas found in Eliot's 'Tradition and the Individual Talent'. Like Eliot, Borges is ultimately concerned with reconciling an awareness of literary tradition with innovation, in other words, of transforming the European and World traditions from cultural dead weights into sources of literary productivity and innovation.  By using Eliot as the theoretical starting point for conclusions that contradict the poet's Eurocentric vision of tradition, Borges exemplifies the manner in which European texts can be used against their grain.  At the same time, the very fact that Borges's critical innovations stem from the Anglo-American poet's influential essay testifies to the richness of Eliot's critical writings.
****************************
 
or from "T. S. Eliot and La Nouvelle Revue Franšaise," by William Marx:
 
     Eliot's assertion of classicism, then, made it difficult for his French colleagues to understand his position.  The writers of the NRF could not reconcile the conservatism of Eliot's classicism with the radical modernism of his poetry, which seemed by French standards to embody a sort of anti-classicism.  The idea that Eliot's modern poetry could change the English tradition while supporting it seemed contradictory to French critics, for whom rejection was requisite to progress.  Anglo-Saxon modernism issued from a supple, ever-changing tradition, while French modernism rose up against classicism's limits.  Like any other French movement, it began as anti-classic, and was accepted as part of the classics only when a new movement rose up to defy it.  There are two different modernisms because there are two different ways of relating to the past, with rupture or with continuity: this was Eliot's lesson from La Nouvelle Revue Franšaise.
 

 


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