Diana Edelman new professor in the Old Testament
After spending most of her career in the USA and England, Diana Edelman came to Norway in the summer of 2014. After a one-year project at the Center for Advanced Study in Oslo, she started in her new position at the Faculty of Theology on the 1st of July.
Diana Edelman started her studies with a BA in religious studies from Smith College, and a MA degree at the University of Chicago. At the Divinity School there, she also finished her PhD in Biblical Studies with a concentration in the Hebrew Bible. After graduating, she taught part-time around Chicago when her children were young.
"My first full-time, tenure-track position was in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at James Madison University in Virginia, where I taught a wide range of undergraduate classes in Bible and Religious Studies," Edelman says.
Bible and archeology
"I ran a summer course that took students to Israel for 8 weeks of archaeological excavations in a field school," she says.
Her research interests have always been interdisciplinary, especially between biblical studies and archeology.
After her years at the James Madison University, she moved to the Department of Bible at the University of Sheffield in England, where she taught at the BA and MA levels and supervised research PhDs.
"All my classes dealt with Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, with an emphasis on interdisciplinarity and the relationship of the Bible to the modern world. My specialty courses were in Bible and Archaeology, Bible and Field Archaeology, and the Bible in its ancient Near Eastern cultural setting."
From Judah to Judaism
Early in her career, Edelman focused on the creation of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the 10 century BCE. . This involved critical analyses of the books of Samuel and of archaeological remains from Israel and Jordan in the 10th century BCE, as well knowledge of the wider political developments in the ancient Near East in this period.
She has also worked on ancient Israelite religion and culture, drawing on biblical and extrabiblical texts and artifacts, in the time period from the 12th-6th centuries BCE.
"For the last 15 years I have been working on understanding historical and cultural developments particularly in the former territory of the kingdom of Judah once it was incorporated into the Neo-Babylonian Empire and then the Persian Empire."
In particular, Edelman has looked at what gave rise to the emergence of early forms of Judaism in the Persian period, including the production and collection of many of the texts found in the Hebrew Bible.
Focus on cultural memory
"Much of my work in the past 7 years has focused on the Bible as cultural memory," she says.
Edelman’s more recent interest in cultural memory studies was stimulated during a postgrad reading group she co-led with Philip Davies in Sheffield.
"Davies had selected a chapter on cultural memory for one of the monthly meetings and I saw this as an exciting new way to view texts that could escape the impasse that had been reached and the circularity of reasoning involved in traditional historical studies in my field," Edelman explains.
"Cultural or collective memory allows a focus on the social function of biblical texts rather than on asking what is historically reliable, which often cannot be determined due to the lack of corroborating evidence. It also picks up a long-standing interest I have had in how the human brain works and what is involved neurologically in remembering and forgetting."
Edelman tells us that she resigned from the University of Sheffield in 2012, and was looking for a new post when the TF position in Old Testament opened up.
"I wanted to remain in Europe, if possible, where the attitudes toward biblical studies tend to be more liberal and open," she says.
"Being generally adventuresome and open to new experiences, I went ahead and applied."
Edelman’s first impressions are that things work very differently here than they did in Sheffield or the US. She says it is a relief not to have to go looking for PhD students in order to pay staff salaries, which was the situation in England, where each Department is an independent fiscal unit expected to cover its own expenses.
"The few colleagues and staff members in TF I have met while I have been at CAS over the past academic year have all been very helpful and patient as I have tried to figure out how things work. I look forward to working with them and others I have not yet met and learning more about their research interests and possible opportunities to collaborate."
Edelman wants to continue with her emphasis on memory studies in her future research. She has several book projects and articles ahead. These include a commentary on Genesis and writing a history of Judah in the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods.
"I am also working on a research project that explores older patterns and templates from the monarchic period. We want to find out how these were adapted to address evolving circumstances and to create a selective, shared past that would reinforce a sense of identity among those who chose to be members of the religious community of Israel, after Judah became a province."