Friday, August 27, 2010

Michel Foucault on the Original Meaning of the Term υπομνηματα

I am continuing to track down the exact meaning of the term υπομνηματα in the writings of the earliest Christians. Indeed what I find especially interesting is whether Clement's description of Mark taking his υπομνηματα and Peter's υπομνηματα from Rome necessarily means that the final product - the secret gospel of Mark in Alexandria - is simply made up of those two aforementioned books. Indeed from many hours of reading Foucault, I am wondering whether people have been misreading what is said in To Theodore.

Justin is indeed quite right in identifying what we would call 'gospels' as υπομνημα. Foucault as noted above identifies the purpose of υπομνηματα "to make of the recollection of the fragmentary logos transmitted by teaching, listening, or reading a means to establish as adequate and as perfect a relationship of oneself to oneself as possible." Yet does Justin's identification mean that he, like Clement, identified one composite text - a proto-Diatessaron perhaps made of three rather than two sources like secret Mark - as his 'true gospel'? I think many who have studied Justin's gospel citations might tentatively agree.

But is Clement actually saying that Mark brought one υπομνημα, a gospel narrative described as an acts (πραξεις) of the Lord that he wrote while in Rome along with ANOTHER υπομνημα associated with Peter? In other words, two BOOKS where it would seem Peter's book was the source of the mystical sayings 'added' to Mark's 'former book'?

As for Mark, then, during Peter’s stay in Rome he wrote an account of the Lord’s doings, not, however, declaring all of them, nor yet hinting at the mystic ones, but selecting what he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing both his own υπομνηματα and that of Peter (from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to those studies which make for progress toward knowledge). Thus he composed a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected. Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord, but to the stories already written he added yet others and, moreover, brought in certain sayings of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils.

I have been wrestling with this text for years but Foucault's emphatic and repeated declaration that υπομνηματα CANNOT mean 'personal notes' but rather a specific type of BOOK has got me thinking. What I am thinking is that Clement is making up the claim that the differences between canonical Mark and secret Mark can be explained away by Mark's editorial decision to add material to his original BOOK from another BOOK supposedly written in the name of Peter. In other words, the 'secret gnostic sayings' added to Mark are DELIBERATELY traced to the most orthodox figure in the Christian pantheon.

Is this the beginning of the claim that the gospel of Mark was written for Peter? I think so. I see no explicit confirmation that Clement ever believed that Mark wrote his gospel for Peter. As Photius notes the hypotyposeis were written by someone else, someone who believed that Peter and Cephas were two different people (Clement certainly didn't).

In any event, for those who are interested here is an objective assessment of Foucault's understanding of what the term υπομνηματα really meant:

In a short essay entitled, "L'ecriture de soi" or "Self Writing," that appeared in a 1983 issue of the French publication Corps ecrit, Foucault turned his attention to a particular literary history of personal ethical writing. In Foucault's reading of it, this tradition began with the personal reading notebooks (υπομνηματα) and correspondence of philosophers of the Roman imperial period and ended with the emergence of self-conscious self-writing in fourth-century Christian asceticism and monasticism. The trajectory Foucault sketched out in this short essay began with hypomnemata, reading notebooks that functioned much like later commonplace books. "One wrote down quotes in them, extracts from books, examples, actions that one had witnessed or read about, reflections or reasonings that one had heard or that had come to mind. They constituted a record of things read, heard, or thought, thus offering them up as a kind of accumulated treasure for subsequent rereading and meditation. They also formed a raw material for the drafting of more systematic treatises." For Foucault, they represented the products of a disciplined reading and writing life. Their contents could well be quite disparate, but they were brought together into an assemblage that ultimately had the potential to transform their collectors. Foucault emphasized that the hypomnemata, although personal jottings, were distinct from the later spiritual memoirs generated by the early Christian monastic virtuosi. The notebooks collected and reorganized the discourse of others, becoming a record of the "already said." Although one might consult these writings to think about one's own action in the world, they generally did not contain private self-assessments.

Hypomnemata were certainly what Foucault described them to be, and yet the term is more broadly resonant than his discussion fully allows. The singular noun υπομνημα is both a reminder and a memorial — literally, something that goes underneath or undergirds the μνῆμα (memory or tomb). It can also mean reminder or mention, note or memorandum. In the plural, the term could refer to the minutes of a proceeding, the public records of an event, the officially recorded acts of a political body. It might also refer to dissertations or treatises written by philosophers or even commentaries — and so the commentary written upon a more systematic writing, a suggramma ... For Foucault, hypomnemata function primarily as commonplace books. Such a function invites the reader of early Christian literature to consider how the Bible comes to function as the hypomnemata extraordinaire, on whose spiritual and ideological authority early Christian writers might seek to capitalize. For Foucault, hypomnemata also function as one end- point along a continuum of forms of self- writing.

The personal correspondence of philosophers that has been preserved from antiquity occupies the second place along Foucault's trajectory and is closely related to the first. Aimed at capturing the details of daily life for another (a fictive or actual audience), such correspondence acted upon both writer and reader, and it functioned as both a discipline (like the notebooks) and a way of manifesting the self to oneself and to others (unlike the notebooks). "To write is thus to 'show oneself,' to project oneself into view, to make one's own face appear in the other's presence. And by this it should be understood that the letter is both a gaze that one focuses on the addressee (through the missive he receives, he feels looked at) and a way of offering oneself to his gaze by what one tells him about oneself. Whereas the υπομνηματα functioned "to enable the formation of the self out of the collected discourse of others," the personal letters involved the generation of "a narrative of the self."
[Elizabeth Ann Castelli Martyrdom and memory: early Christian culture making p. 71 - 73]

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