About Me

james.linville

Dr. James R. Linville

A-812D University Hall
University of Lethbridge
403 381-2537
james.linville[AT]uleth.ca

I’m an Associate Professor in the Dept. of  Religious Studies at the University of Lethbridge in Lethbridge Alberta. I’ve been here since 2002 after a few years of a post-doc and sessional work at the University of Alberta (Edmonton). My PhD is actually in Hebrew and Old Testament from the Faculty of Divinity, University of Edinburgh (1997), and my BA was in Religious Studies from the University of Alberta. After several years of teaching Hebrew Bible and mythology courses, I decided rather than work on how the Hebrew Bible reflected and influenced ancient beliefs, I’d like to study how contemporary groups read and interpret it and even reject it along with all forms of religion. I ended up teaching special topic courses on the modern atheist movement and on modern creationism and from the latter my new project was born. I’ve been at it since the summer of 2015 and I’ve been lucky enough to be awarded a two year, Community of Research Excellence Development Opportunities grant by the U. of Lethbridge to support the project.

I should come clean and say I am not a member of the creationist movement by any means. The first rule of Religious Studies is to try to be aware of and to  bracket out as much as possible one’s own worldview to be as fair as can be to the people one is studying. My research, therefore, is not intended to advance the creationist cause or to aid in belittling creationists as individuals or as a social movement. Still, scholars are often caught in the middle and I’m not an exception. Some students thought classes on creationism were too anti-Christian, while others, in my course on the modern Atheist movement, was too anti-secular, and I have had some students walk out when I said that we would take a critical look at the thought of the works of the popular atheist writers. I do speak at some secularist and humanist meetings, I usually have people object that I’m too “nice” or “compassionate” towards creationists. Oh well, being a bit of a contrary gadfly is part of the job, I guess.

Professional Affiliations
American Academy of Religion
Canadian Society for the Study of Religion
North American Association for the Study of Religion
Society of Biblical Literature  – Metacriticism of Biblical Scholarship, Steering Committee, co-chair
European Association of Biblical Studies

Some Recent and Upcoming Courses at the U. of Lethbridge

Modern Christian Creationism  An upcoming course for the Fall 2016. I will be looking at the origins of the modern creationist movement and the cultural and theological aspects of it, mostly in North America but with a look at the global scene as well.

Atheism and Society This course looks at how the modern atheist movement and the so-called “New Atheists” have challenged the place of religion in the western world and takes a critical look at how “religion” and its effect on world politics etc. is portrayed in key writers and speakers in the atheist movement. It also looks at the changing religious landscape and the rise of the so-called “nones”.

Studying Religion Critically  I teach this every year. It is an introduction on how to research “religion” and religiosity, although the course spends a lot of time illustrating that the category “religion” is pretty fuzzy, and there is no definitive, clear-cut division between religion and other spheres of human culture and engagement with the world.

Religion and the Science Fiction Screen Even when not representing religions (real or imagined) directly science fiction films and T.V. shows are permeated with religious themes: aliens are often god (or devil) like and many a space travelling hero follows a mythic heroic journey or a messianic mission. Themes of immortality, the nature of humanity, destiny and fate are all common topics in sci-fi. The course looks at how film and TV provides a kind of alternate mythology dealing with many of the same ideas as religious literature.

Bible Survey  A look at the Christian Bible (with apocrypha) and how its various stories, poetry, and other contents originated  have shaped Jewish and Christian thought.

Introduction to Judaism A basic introduction to the history, thought, and practice of Judaism over the past two thousand years.

Antisemitism Through the Ages A look at the evolution of theological objections to Judaism in early Christianity into distrust  and hatred of Jews as a people in the West. We trace the development of anti-semitic myths such as the  Blood Libel and Jewish World Conspiracy throughout the ages and the history of displacements, pogroms and massacres Jews were subject to over the centuries. We also study the impact of emancipation and secularization on European anti-Semitism and, of course, we also spend considerable time on the causes of the Nazi persecutions and its global aftermath. I also spend some time on the history of Canadian anti-Semitism.

Other projects

Besides my creationism project, for which I’m getting some manuscripts ready for publication, I’m also engaged in a few other projects when I can avoid marking papers and get need a break from the creationist material.

Myth and the Hebrew Bible I’ve been meaning to write a short book addressing how Biblical Studies often operates with an inadequate, and outdated theory of myth and how more careful engagement with myth theory from the wider fields of Religious Studies, Anthropology and other disciplines can help illuminate the biblical text and the attempts to clarify its cultural settings. A few initial forays have been published (see my publication list below), and I did a presentation on Genesis 1 for the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Atlanta in November 2015. Hopefully, the book will start to come together over the next few years.

Is Religion a Thing and Does It Jiggle When You Poke It? This is a project short, popular level book introducing Religious Studies to the secular world that I hope will be easy and fun to read while being informative and a bit provocative.  It will comment on the complexity of religion, its blurred boundaries with other spheres of human life, and the trials and tribulations of trying to study religion given that everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter. The book will be based on previous public presentations, rewritten with additional chapters, some of which exist in draft form.

Publications

Books

Amos and the Cosmic Imagination (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2008).
Israel in the Book of Kings: The Past as a Project of Social Identity (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998).

 Recent articles and chapters

“Mythoprophetics: Some Thoughts”, in Ian Douglas Wilson and Diana Edelman (eds) History, Memory, Hebrew Scriptures: A Festschrift for Ehud Ben Zvi (Eisenbrauns, 2015).

“Of an Imagination All Compact: The Garden, The Forest and the Wasteland as the Apple of the Biblical Poet’s Eye,” in Ehud Ben Zvi, Claudia V. Camp, David M. Gunn, and Aaron W. Hughes (eds), Poets, Prophets, and Texts in Play: Studies in Biblical Poetry and Prophecy in Honour of Francis Landy (London: T & T Clark, 2015).

“The Fluid Boundaries of Life, the Universe and Yahweh” in Ehud Ben Zvi and Christoph Levin (eds.) Thinking of Water in the Early Second Temple Period (BZAW, 461, Walter De Gruyter, 2014), 393-408.

“On the Authority of Dead Kings” in Diana V. Edelman (ed.) Deuteronomy-Kings as Emerging Authoritative Books: A Conversation (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2014), 203-222.

“Ancient Religions” and “Judaism”, Chapters revised for second edition of World Religions: A Guide to the Essentials (Baker, 2014).

“Lest We Forget our Sins: Lamentations, Exilicism and the Sanctification of Disjunction,” in Ehud Ben Zvi and Christoph Levin (eds), Remembering and Forgetting in Early Second Temple Judah (FAT; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012), pp. 315-327.

“Playing with Maps of Exile: Displacement, Utopia and Disjunction” in Christoph Levin and Ehud Ben Zvi (eds.) Concept of Exile in Ancient Israel and its Contexts (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2010), 275-294.

“Myth of the Exilic Return: Myth Theory and the Exile as an Eternal Reality in the Prophets” in Christoph Levin and Ehud Ben Zvi (eds.) Concept of Exile in Ancient Israel and its Contexts (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2010), 295-309.