The Bible as Literature: Narrative, Politics, and History
612 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
The Bible is a wonderfully comprehensive collection of stories: a parade of heroes and villains, royals and peasants, dysfunctional families and the truest of filial loyalties. Its texts span genres from poetry to novella, short story to historical epic, legalistic writing to satire, and instructional manual to the confessional. However, this simple fact of the Bible’s literary quality and variety often gets lost in discussions of authorship and authority (Who really wrote the Bible?) and in arguments about reliability and validity (Did it really happen?). These are precisely the questions we will not be asking in this course on the Bible as literature. Instead, we will engage biblical narratives with an eye for their literary and aesthetic qualities.
Among other questions, the course will ask: What are the literary devices that Biblical narrative resorts to and what literary “work” do these do? How do tensions between narratives and their contexts shape a Biblical story’s representation? What does it means to read something “as literature” and what is at stake in studying the Bible as literature? We will begin by discussing the literary scope and variety of the Bible and how we might read the texts without losing sight of their narrative qualities. These will include tales of the patriarchs from Genesis, as well as selections from the Books of Samuel, Ruth and Daniel. Finally, we will survey the major scholars who have treated the Bible as literature such—including, among others, Robert Alter, Ilana Pardes, and Moshe Halbertal—as we explore their insights into the Bible’s literary representation of historical events, political realities, gender themes, and apocalyptic fantasies.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 13 — December 11, 2018
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Tuesday, November 20th.