How Contemporary Novelists Rewrite Stories From the Bible: The Interpretation of Scripture in Literature

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This work examines fourteen reception-histories of single biblical stories, published in English between 1972 and 2002. They cover the topics of Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Flood, Solomon and Sheba, Jezebel, Job, Judith, Jonah, the Magi, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Pilate, Judas and the Apocalypse.


"In an age of specialization most evident in the academic world, not only between disciplines but within them (biblical critics often forced to specialize on one or two texts and rarely talking to other kinds of theologians, let alone to literary critics) the breadth of vision Swindell offers is refreshing. He also throws up interesting connections between writers who themselves are often unaware of others working on similar interpretative questions, albeit from different perspectives. Swindell’s eight ‘theorists’ and fourteen ‘reception theorists’, for example, make very few cross-references to each other. And yet, as he is able to demonstrate, they can be seen to partake in an ‘unfolding hermeneutical process’ sharing similar interests in the creative response to the Bible of writers not bound by the same rather rigid conventions of academic biblical criticism." – Prof. Terence Wright, University of Newcastle

“. . . a valuable overview of an emerging field of study that combines breadth with intellectual rigor. . . . What emerges are not only a set of standards for the field but, more significantly, a set of questions that must be addressed as the field continues to develop.” – Prof. Brian Britt, Virginia Tech

“Swindell explores the novel idea that reception-histories seem compelled to navigate by means of “key” masterworks and, equally new to reception history studies, he compares fourteen biblical reception-histories with three reception-histories of non-biblical literature.” – Prof. Martin O’Kane, University of Wales, Lampeter

“. . . provides penetrating insight into an important genre of literature, in which time-honored Biblical themes and worthies have inspired often surprising interpretation and rewriting. His perceptive judgments enhance our scholarly appreciation of these reworkings.” – Prof. J.K. Elliot, University of Leeds

Table of Contents

Foreword by Professor Terence Wright
1. Introduction
2. A Survey of Principal Texts
3. Rewriting Scripture: Eight Theorists
Northrop Frye
Piero Boitani
Robert Alter
David Brown
Nicholas Boyle
Harold Fisch
Larry J. Kreitzer
George Steiner
4. Finding Theology in the Fourteen Reception Theories
5. Vox Dei
6. Variations on a Theme
7. The Other in Theology and Postmodern Thought
8. Analyzing the Fourteen Studies as Literary Structures
9. Conflations, Convergences, Contamination and Intertexts
10. Range: How the Fourteen Points Cover the Ground
11. Nodal Points
12. Comparison with the Reception-Histories of Ulysses, Ovid and The Tempest
13. Closure, Non-Closure, Ideologies and Canons
14. Conclusions: The Hermeneutical Value of Literary Reception Theory
Appendix A: Further Excursions into Rewriting
Appendix B: Review of Most: Doubting Thomas
Appendix C: Revisiting Rewriting: The Relevance of Julie Sanders: Adaptation and Appropriation (2006) to this Study

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