Scott S. Elliott reconsiders the autobiographical statements Paul makes throughout his letters (particularly Philippians 3:4b-6; Romans 7:14-25; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-10) in light of the theoretical work of Roland Barthes.
Elliott draws particularly on Barthes' later poststructuralist writings, many of which touch either directly or indirectly on self-narration (e.g., Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, Mourning Diary, Camera Lucida, and A Lover's Discourse: Fragments). These provide fruitful dialogue partners with which Elliott can interrogate and examine Paul's own writings and consider the ways in which Paul saw himself and how the application of this theory can yield a greater understanding of Paul's letters.
[T]here is much that is useful and of interest, especially for Pauline scholars who are desiring novel approaches to important (and foundational) biblical texts. * Barthes Studies * A dazzling achievement. Just how much has remained unthought and unsaid about Paul and his letters, even (or especially) in Pauline scholarship, is what Scott Elliott unearths in this singular study. Elliott is currently our most incisive biblical-scholarly (re)thinker of the tangled relationships between the factual and the fictional, the historical and the autobiographical, and the unutterable and the sayable-all relationships around which Paul's letters pivot, as Elliott shows. * Stephen D. Moore, Edmund S. Janes Professor of New Testament Studies, The Theological School, Drew University, USA * Scott S. Elliott's The Rustle of Paul offers something rare in the crowded landscape of Pauline scholarship today: a genuinely fresh encounter with the elusive figure of Paul. Reading the Pauline epistles alongside literary theorist Roland Barthes, Elliott's results are both revelatory and revolutionary. Just as Barthes struggled to liberate language from the strictures of supposedly stable structures and the false imposition of authorial intent, Elliott seeks to free Paul from the modern impulse to pin him down by figuring him out. At once bold and suggestive, the rustle of Elliott's own writing has restored for me the pleasures of the Pauline text. * Michal Beth Dinkler, Yale Divinity School, USA * Most read Pauline letters in search of Paul, an Author and/or system of ideas, and then deploy that Author to construct early Christianity or make disciples. Foregoing such myth-making, Scott S. Elliot focuses, with Roland Barthes, on "writing" itself in Paul's autobiographical fragments. He privileges the fragmented, fictional "I" of Rom. 7 over that of Phil. 3 and sees this writerly "I" as relational, weak, and vulnerable to systems (see 1 Cor. 9; 12). Throughout Elliott searches for that which temporarily baffles meaning (the Neutral). This challenging, incisive text will lead readers to ponder anew both the Greek NT and Barthes' Mythologies. * Richard Walsh, Methodist University, USA * In this remarkable book, Scott S. Elliott suggests a different way of looking at important texts, by reading Paul in a manner proposed by both Roland Barthes and Barthes' contemporary, Susan Sontag - not by looking past or through the text (for Oedipal meanings, structured class relations, the expression of some well-defined self or experience, etc.), but at the work itself. In this approach, the point is less about interpretation than it is about pleasure, but what Elliott has done so well is to show us that to take pleasure in the texts of Paul, to look at them and not past them, is no disservice to Paul or to us. In the spirit of Barthes' 'pleasure of the text' (and Sontag's 'erotics of art'), Elliott demonstrates that remaining open to the 'rustle of Paul' requires extraordinary care and sensuous attunement to language. * Matthew Waggoner, Albertus Magnus College, USA *