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Presenting the Past: The Genre of Commentary in Theoretical Perspective

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This article provides a theoretical discussion of the genre of commentary writing. Rather than examining the role of commentary in a specific religion, it attempts to articulate a set of useful questions to begin the process of rethinking what this genre is and, in the process, help create a theoretical vocabulary and conceptual framework for an analysis of commentary from the history of religions. The article is divided into three parts. The first broadens the traditional concept of a "canon", ostensibly the raw data upon which the commentary imposes a taxonomy. The second argues that the human condition, what Heidegger calls the way in which we are thrown into the world, demands that we interpret it. Finally, it is suggested that commentary is fundamentally about location or space, thereby providing the classificatory schema that is necessary for contextualizing both past and present. The main goal of this article is to problematize the current discussion of commentary in a theoretical way.

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