Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dault on NYTimes, Vatican and Bible

David Dault, on Material Scripture, compares Kenneth Woodward's characterization of the editors of the New York Times wielding cultural power like the "Magisterium" with the power of editors of mass-marketed Bibles. Dault had already compared Bible editors with the magisterium in his doctoral dissertation, and now brings the leading American newspaper into the same set of comparisons:

What interests me about Woodward's assertion above is the ideological power that is brought to bear when these magisterial effects are wedded with certain types of material objects. That editors and corporations control the content (and therefore, to an arguable extent, the possible readings) of books and newspapers is plain. But the Bible is not an ordinary book, just as the Times is no ordinary newspaper, in terms of the relative cultural power wielded by both.

By virtue (is this the proper word?) of their respective material presentations, the editorial decisions that go into the construction of an imprint of a Bible version or an issue of the Times are of an elevated ideological nature. Words in the New York Times are different, in their weight and influence, than similar words found in the Chattanooga Times, for example
Dault's comments are well worth reading and digesting in full. But including the NYT in this set of comparisons highlights one difference between mass-produced Bibles on the one hand and the newspaper and the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: for the latter two, prestige is vested in the institutions they represent and only derivatively in the documents they produce and distribute. Bibles, on the other hand, carry their prestige for being the material objects that they are; their publishers and editors are as likely to derive prestige from the product they produce.

1 comment:

dault said...

Jim - thank you very much for noting my article. I appreciate it! The direct link, for folks who want to go read the whole thing, is here:


Thanks again!