Scholar Joel Explains Nuance

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Widowfield @ 11:48 am

If you haven’t had a chance to catch Joel Watts’ response to my previous post on his HuffPo hot mess, by all means go take a look. It’s the post with a color photo of the lovely Cecilia Bartoli near the top of the page and a black-and-white self portrait of Joel farther down.

To the charge of reckless disregard for intelligible language, Joel pleads not guilty by reason of “nuance,” and deflects the criticism back at me, writing:

. . . in spite of not needing to answer imbeciles, I wante [sic] to speak to the use of several of these phrases — phrases that cannot be googled.

If Joel or anyone else did not understand me, I regret that I wasn’t clearer. When I read works by talented authors, and I encounter an odd turn of phrase, I endeavor to grasp the meaning. Consider the oft-misquoted line (and title!) from Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Many people will insist on turning the word “gentle” into an adverb. But the master poet used an adjective. Why did he do that? It’s worth digging into, but only because we know that Dylan Thomas was a great writer — an artist, not an oaf hiding behind the fig leaf of “nuance.”

I only Googled some of Joel’s word mash-ups in order to see if they were things he’d picked up somewhere else — not seeking definitions, but vainly searching for examples from more competent authors. As I tried to convey in my earlier post, when a writer is as ill-equipped as Joel, it is often difficult to tell whether he’s reaching into a bag of jumbled phrases he picked up from heaven-knows-where or if he’s going out on a limb and inventing something new.

Joel writes:

The problem is one of nuance. Literalists, or rather those who ignorantly claim literalism as what the letter says rather than how the letter is used to say, decry nuance. It is the devil, the one devil, they believe in. 

I embrace nuance. But I cannot countenance idiocy masquerading as subtlety. I also embrace lucidity, and when the time calls for it, very direct and clear speech. That time is now:

One more thing before I wrap up this quick post: Joel has referred to Vridar as a “conspiracy site.” What do you readers think of that assessment?

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  1. I would say that Joel makes up stuff if he thinks Vridar is a “conspiracy site”. Typical of Jesus scholars though, so…

    Comment by Corky — 2013/06/25 @ 12:10 pm

  2. I guess the word ‘conspiracy’ is understood to be insulting, which may be why Bart Ehrman attacks mythicists as ‘conspiracy theorists’ (and having some secret anti-christian agenda). It used to be ‘commie sympathizer’ or some such thing.

    Comment by proudfootz — 2013/06/25 @ 12:16 pm

  3. I do not think this is a conspiracy site, my reptiloid brethren! Why the nerve of that Earthling. Guess who gets put up against the wall when the Great Fleet arrives!

    (But, yeah, seriously – conspiracy?)

    Comment by badger3k — 2013/06/25 @ 12:28 pm

  4. They use the word “extremist” and “radical” in a similar way. Apparently, for them the truth always lies in the middle of an imaginary bell curve.

    Comment by Tim Widowfield — 2013/06/25 @ 12:56 pm

  5. The assessment is certainly not accurate. There are people who think that if Jesus was not real, it would have taken a conspiracy to make the world think he was real, and by this logic, any site favorable to mythicism must be a conspiracy site. In Joel’s case, though, who knows what he is trying to say when he uses the word “conspiracy”? With his imagined mastery of nuance, he has made himself immune to reasoned criticism. His words can mean anything he needs them to mean for his statements to be true.

    Comment by Doug Shaver — 2013/06/25 @ 1:18 pm

  6. Let’s not be too quick to judge. Joel Watts has written a scholarly book, and my understanding is that he himself explains that his incompetent way with words is a playful mimesis of that crudely written earliest of gospels by Stumpyfingers. And this assessment is fully embraced by none other than the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University:

    For at the end of the book, Watts indicates he has written seriously yet playfully, aiming not merely to discuss mimesis but to illustrate it. All in all, a fascinating book, bound to generate fruitful and illuminating discussion. –James F. McGrath, Butler University

    Now that’s nuance, indeed!

    Comment by Neil Godfrey — 2013/06/25 @ 2:26 pm

  7. Here’s a dose of delicious, scholarly nuance:

    Unfortunately, such crass interpretive needs only betray the literary and intellectually impoverished mind who is so buried within itself – so that the mind is in an orifice – to exist only as a singularity.

    This ice-cream headache was brought to you by Unsettled Christianity.

    Comment by Tim Widowfield — 2013/06/25 @ 3:19 pm

  8. . . . not made any easier by Joel formatting his page layout so that his black and white self-portrait appears at this point, as you led readers to notice in your opening paragraph.

    Comment by Neil Godfrey — 2013/06/25 @ 6:20 pm

  9. I believe it is a “good night” not a dark one.

    Comment by Evan — 2013/06/26 @ 1:08 am

  10. Thanks. I’ll fix it. Why I didn’t just copy and paste it is a mystery to me.

    Comment by Tim Widowfield — 2013/06/26 @ 1:57 am

  11. I just thought nuance were younger than old ants.

    Comment by exrelayman — 2013/06/26 @ 5:02 am

  12. Ugh. Horrible. That’s not even word salad. It’s the slime that forms in the crisper drawer when you leave word salad in the fridge for too long.

    Comment by C.J. O'Brien — 2013/06/26 @ 7:22 am

  13. We have company in the ‘Conspiracy’ category.

    Geoffrey Hudson Golb and the Dead Sea Scrolls
    Leon Zitzer Historical Jesus,The
    R. Joseph Hoffmann New Oxonian, The
    Stephen Huller Stephan Huller’s observations
    James Tabor Tabor Blog
    Neil Godfrey Vridar

    It’s fine with me. Some people can only make themselves feel better by putting other people down. If I’ve made someone happy, I am doing good.

    Comment by stephan huller — 2013/06/26 @ 4:50 pm

  14. I remember in reading the papers when I was younger ‘radical leftist students’ was a way to dismiss those who resisted our government’s client’s policies in wherever.

    Comment by proudfootz — 2013/06/27 @ 10:19 am

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