Given the tweeting of SBL, I won't do my usual day-by-day analysis. In any case, I've forgotten a lot of it already. We took a short holiday away as soon as I was back from New Orleans, and that has shunted any blogging firmly into this week, with the SBL already beginning to seem like a distant memory. But perhaps distance brings perspective. I'll make a few general comments and mention a few highlights.
The two most memorable papers I heard were not the best attended and were not at great big ball-room sessions. And both were, in a strange way, related. On Monday afternoon, Bob Cargill spoke about the Raphael Golb affair in the Computer Assisted Research Section. Although I knew most of the details already, it was fascinating to hear the complete narrative. It was one of the best presented papers I have heard at SBL ever. Bob had a wonderfully dramatic powerpoint with hundreds of illustrative slides. It was one of those rare presentations where you heard every single word. There was a dramatic moment, about two-thirds of the way through, when Bob had reached the point where Raphael Golb had assumed the identity of Lawrence Schiffmann and confessed to plagiarism. Bob paused and noted that, for the record, he thought that this was "despicable". There were about ten people at this session, and I think that that included the other speakers. This was a real shame and may say something about the serious problem of the proliferation of sections and sessions at the SBL, more of which anon.
The other really memorable paper was James Crossley's on N. T. Wrong. This paper was on the Tuesday morning, never a popular time, and it was in the Ideological Criticism Section. My desire to hear James meant that I turned up in time to listen to a fascinating paper on Raymond Brown's changing attitude to "the Jews" in the Fourth Gospel between 1960 and 1998, with apologies that I have forgotten the name of the speaker. The session was scheduled in one of those tiny rooms, but it was packed for James's paper -- standing room only. And as soon as he had finished, the entire room emptied. I felt really sorry for speaker number 3 -- that can't have been a nice feeling. But I was being a tart and needed to get to another session before flying back, so joined the crowd and filtered out without looking back.
James's paper was pitched exactly right. There were plenty of laughs, and the room appeared to be divided into those who new about the N. T. Wrong phenomenon and those who wished they did. James managed to get the measure of the man, quoting some of his most memorable materials, and integrating it with his now familiar critique of the conservative nature of the majority of bibliobloggers. I suppose that I was encouraged about the talk in part because it shows just how interesting and appealing the discussion of blogging can be in the SBL context, a good sign for the newly created blogging section. I felt that James's paper effectively celebrated a lot of what is great about blogging while Bob Cargill's paper, the previous day, had stared into its dark side.
And for those of you who weren't there: No, James did not reveal Wrong's identity. He did not even confirm that he knew who it was. No, those of us who asked questions and made comments also did not reveal Wrong's identity. Yes, it was all a little bit like Life of Brian. "I am not N. T. Wrong, and nor is my wife!" Well, no one quite said that, but they should have done.
Update (Thursday, 19.36): thanks to Jason Staples for the note that the person speaking about Raymond Brown and "the Jews" in John was Sonya Cronin.