The Bible and Its Rewritings

The Bible and Its Rewritings

The Bible and Its Rewritings

The Bible and Its Rewritings

Synopsis

Piero Boitani discusses how some of the most fascinating scenes of Old and New Testament -- Genesis, Exodus, Job, the Susanna story, the Gospel of John -- are directly or indirectly rewritten in works ranging from the medieval period to the late twentieth-century: by Milton and Mann; by Chaucer, Dryden, La Fontaine, Orwell, and Kafka; by Faulkner and Tournier; by Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, and Joseph Roth. Literature resonates with the mystery of recognition between human beings, and between God and humankind. The opening and closing chapters of the book examine this theme: from Abraham and Yahweh at Mamre to Joseph and his brothers, from Helen and Menelaus to Jesus and Mary Magdalene, from Pericles and Marina to Mendel Singer and his son Menuchim. The three central sections of the book discuss the means by which re-scripturing interprets the Scriptures: through truth or fiction; through letter or allegory; through liturgy, exegesis, catacomb frescoes, even churches themselves. This is an illuminating look at the Bible and its medieval and modern rewritings.

Excerpt

'RI-SCRITTURE', the original Italian title of this volume--literally, 'Re-Scriptures', a word I use every now and then in the following pages--means rewritings of the Scriptures, and involves two textual focuses: the Bible and the work recreating it. This is no small matter, of course, as the present writer is uncomfortably aware. To rush into the Book not as a Bible scholar but as a critic, after thousands of years of exegesis, commentary, and, most recently, literary analysis, also means not fearing to tread where Erich Auerbach, Northrop Frye, Harold Bloom, Meir Sternberg, Robert Alter, Frank Kermode, Harold Fisch, and Gabriel Josipovici have gone before, to give simply an indispensable list of eight names which is by no means exhaustive. It is equally a challenge to the intellect and general sensitivity, since the Bible, Hebrew and Christian alike, is provocative as no other text can be. What it claims to do, whether we believe it or not, is to speak of the one true God, and 'to justify the ways of God to man' as one of its rewriters par excellence has it. The Book, it claims, speaks as a result of direct divine inspiration, but does so through the words of humankind.

I was aware, then, how heavy the gauntlet I had thrown down for myself was, and it came as an unlooked-for bonus to find myself actually enjoying it. Unwilling to risk more than my skin (given that eternal damnation may also be in question), I prudently accompanied the Scriptures with their rewritings, attempting a critical cross-fertilization, and made sure I kept to a strictly literary plane, although I have inevitably touched on philosophical and theological implications, in that neither God nor human beings speak idly, and re-Scripting is necessarily preordained by Scripture itself.

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