Noah's Ark, Italianate mural painting, mid 16th century studiolo

Reading the Bible: The Flood

The Mercantile Library
414 Walnut St #1100
Cincinnati, OH 45202

The biblical flood story permeates the popular imagination. The plot is certainly familiar —  an entire world submerged in water, pairs of animals marching onto the ark, eventual redemption — but our ability to realize the power of this story is often hampered by assumptions about its history or its primitive character.

In this course, we will learn how the scribes who wrote the biblical flood story transformed a well-known narrative into a profound story about ethics and justice. We will read the flood story in the book of Genesis in careful detail. We will come to understand the complex ways the Flood is embedded in ancient cultures by delving deeply into its many links with other literatures from the ancient world. Texts to be studied include ancient Mesopotamian versions of the flood story from Atrahasis and the Epic of Gilgamesh, Plato’s Laws and Hesiod’s Works and Days, the creation narrative in Genesis, the book of Ezekiel, and legal texts from the Hebrew Bible that relate to blood consumption, ritual pollution, homicide and capital punishment, and the principle of retribution. Aided by Wolfgang Iser’s The Act of Reading and Michael Fishbane’s Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking, we will think about the power of narrative and especially why and how cultures create myths, and then consider how this varied cultural repertoire was engaged to create a work of literature that could shape the worldview not only of its first audience but of generations of audiences to come. Finally, we will  put our knowledge to use as we consider modern retellings of the flood story such as Disney’s Fantasia and Darren Aaronofsky’s Noah and their philosophical implications.

Course Schedule

Thursday, 6 - 9pm
June 15 — July 06, 2017
4 weeks

$25.00$75.00

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