Jesus and "Other" Deviants: A narrative labelling study of "aloneness" in Mark 5:1-20.

Author: Nina Corlett-McDonald

Corlett-McDonald, Nina, 2017 Jesus and "Other" Deviants: A narrative labelling study of "aloneness" in Mark 5:1-20., Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This thesis explores “aloneness” in within the gospel of Mark in connection to both the Gerasene person in Mark 5:1-20 and Jesus. Whilst “aloneness” is a modern sociological construct, this thesis argues that it can also be recognised within the first century setting within the gospel. The identification of “aloneness” in Mark 5:1-20 is investigated through the methodology I have termed “narrative labelling”, which has its foundations in reader-response analysis, narrative analysis and labelling theory. Narrative labelling utilises the rhetoric of labelling and deviance within a narrative context to highlight “aloneness” within a first century text. Central to the exploration of “aloneness” is the discussion of deviance. Deviance is defined in both positive and negative ways. “Aloneness” is seen by the deviation from the social norms of this first century society, that is, through being “other” in some way.

The thesis argues that the narrator is the chief labeller within the narrative labelling framework. It is this figure that employs the rhetoric of labelling by which the reader is to view characters in terms of deviance, “otherness” and “aloneness”. Within the pericope of Mark 5:1-20, there are four groups of characters; Jesus and the person with unclean spirits are the central characters, whilst the minor characters are the disciples and the Gerasene people. The narrative is filled with “otherness”. From the outset, in an act of deviance, Jesus and the disciples travel to the “other” side of the sea. Immediately after disembarking, Jesus, deviant and alone, encounters the likewise deviant and alone unnamed person who has unclean spirits. Through the narrative descriptions of interaction, labels of deviance are seen, and characters isolated. For Jesus, his identity as God’s son, the “in-breaker” of God’s rule, is a label that both excludes him, but serves to make him prominent also. He has no equal. For the person with unclean spirits, his “otherness” remains, even when restored, and he is elevated to a place of prominence in spreading the message of Jesus’ mercy to the Decapolis.

The exploration of “aloneness” within the thesis serves to remind contemporary readers that Jesus, like others, experienced “aloneness” in the gospel. This “aloneness” need not be seen as negative deviance, but in a positive light. “Aloneness”, as seen in the Markan Jesus, gives hope for the “in-breaking” of God’s kingdom. Just as the message of hope prevails in the gospel of the first century, so it continues for those who experience “aloneness” in contemporary society.

Keywords: deviance, narrative labelling, Mark 5:1-20, aloneness, otherness, Gerasene demoniac, Gospel of Mark, positive deviance, prominence, Nina Corlett-McDonald

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Rev. Dr. Michael Trainor