Using academic vocabulary is sometimes perceived as being elitist, ‘ivory tower talk’. And sometimes such criticism is justified. But then there’s this perspective on theological jargon…
Vítor Westhelle, Zygon, vol. 39, no. 4 (December 2004), p. 750.
What do you think? Do you regard the vocabulary of your discipline, or concepts specific to it, as little pieces of art, “evoking a world”? Or are they merely tools, having no intrinsic value?
2 thoughts on “The Beauty of Theology”
This is interesting. My discipline is English Literature, and I have a love-hate relationship with the vocabulary of it. I, firmly, believe that academic writers should take a lesson in journalism, or screenwriting to “cut 90%”, as it is said in those trades. I don’t know about other disciplines, but the very nature of publishable academic criticism of poetry is to be as unpoetical as possible. It is, as though, you are trying to show off your mediocre capability in the poetical if that is how you choose to analyse. It is interesting that they often ask for a “plain, lucid” style of prose when they are so easily deceived with carefully placed jargon. I think that is why English teachers are often portrayed as bold, charismatic, frustrated individuals in fiction and cinema who cannot understand why there should be such a tradition. It is analysing words by hiding behind other words.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. “Analyzing words by hiding behind other words”: that really hits the nail on the head, I think. In most disciplines, certainly in the Humanities, concepts are analyzed, interpreted, explained, etc. When the result of this academic labour is nothing more than what you might call ‘eloquent gibberish’ for the interested reader, it is actually work done in vain.
Although, of course, aiming for clarity can summon the howling demons ‘Empiricism’, ‘Positivism’, and ‘Reductionism’, who would like nothing more than to hunt down all ambiguity in language, and to elevate one meaning to true meaning. One meaning, to rule them all? I’m not familiar with academic criticism of poetry, but I think some people in my field (theology) do indeed have one of those demons riding on their back…