Well SBL 2011 is done and I’m back home so I thought I would post my reflections of the event.  As always it was a stimulating and rewarding experience.  If you have not yet attended an SBL event I highly suggest you make next year your first.

Highlights

Pat McCullough always does a great job putting together panels that are both informative and entertaining and this year’s panel was no exception.  While all the speakers were tremendous, Margaret Mitchell’s words had the strongest impact on me.  A few weeks before SBL I had gotten stuck on one particular problem with my dissertation, closely related to my methodology.  Mitchell reminded the room that while methodologies are useful, questions are what drive the discussions and one’s work.  This statement helped me break through my own wall by reminding me that my methodology is just a tool for answering the questions I’m pursuing.  While this may seem like a simple truism, they were certainly words I needed to hear at that moment.  Amy Jill Levine was also incredibly entertaining.  I had not had the pleasure of hearing her speak before, and while she was informative, I will always remember her candor and outrageous comments.  Well done Mr. McCullough I look forward to seeing what you put together next year!

Presenting my work before the Rhetoric and the New Testament group.  This work done by this group has greatly influenced the direction of my dissertation.  Thus, I was excited to present my work before the group and was hoping that their critiques would not be too scathing.  Although, the audience was small, as my paper was presented from 6:00 – 6:30, influential members of the group were in attendance.  I especially appreciated the feedback offered by Greg Bloomquist, as his monograph on Paul and suffering directly influenced my own paper.  Moreover, after the session ended, we were able to talk for a while and this encounter allowed me to probe him for advice at another meeting of the Rhetoric and the New Testament group.  It was also great to meet Greg Carey and exchange thoughts with him.  Essentially, this meeting helped confirm that this group could serve as a home for my dissertation work.

Peter Head’s SBL closing presentation.  I have an interest in papyrology; but I often find the papers too technical or internal discussion oriented.  Head’s paper was both interesting and entertaining, though the entertaining part was probably unintentional.  There were serious technical difficulties which limited the length of his talk and turned 15 slides into hilarious one liners leading up to a 10 minute information packed presentation.  If this is how all papyrology papers were presented I wouldn’t miss a single one!

Talking to Duane Watson in the airport.  My table for lunch at some overpriced airport restaurant was ready and my lunch mate was pushing me to wrap up this conversation quickly.  However, I had burning questions about my dissertation that I had to ask given this opportunity.  Watson was also waiting for a table and was kind enough to provide me with some valuable information. 

Seeing friends and colleagues.  I’ll never forget my first SBL in 2004; I knew no one at the event and basically wandered around between papers and ate alone wondering how one got more involved in this sea of people.  Now 8 years later I can’t walk more than about 20 feet without seeing someone I know.  My SBL experience has drastically changed and this is due to the many people I consider friends.  I may not see them or even communicate with them all year, but it’s great seeing them at SBL.  So while I would love to give a shout out to every one of these people this list would be longer and more laborious to read than the genealogies in Matthew and Luke.

Lowlights

While I have enjoyed San Franciscoduring previous visits, it is not ideal for SBL.  The hotels were too spread out (often a 10 minute walk or more separating them) to attend all the papers I wanted to see.  I was often forced to make choices between papers even when they did not overlap.

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