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Discusses the implications involved in studying the Bible as a literary text, comments on the new wave of literary biblical studies, and reexamines the verses that have dictated an entire culture
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Alter's books on biblical narrative and poetics (ed., The Literary Guide to the Bible, 1987; The Art of Biblical Narrative, 1981) are bench-mark works in contemporary biblical lit-crit, and Alter has seen the field grow up around him into something fertile, even crowded. So it isn't altogether surprising here to see Alter, in the first of these diverse essays, swat and gesture at and shoo- away some of his colleagues (though it seems a rather too defensive defense). More interesting concerns go forth in essays on the Bible as literature (``The remaining, powerful peculiarity of the Bible is that it is a literature steeped in the quirkiness and imperfection of the human that is ultimately oriented toward a horizon beyond the human''); on the literal, about which Alter can see ``no real contradiction between literal and figurative readings of the Bible''; on allusion; and on Harold Bloom's Book of J thesis, which receives a scolding for being based, Alter argues, on a scandalously inaccurate translation of the text's Hebrew by David Rosenberg. As always with Alter (and as it should be, no doubt), he is on more solid ground when specific--carefully and thoroughly examining biblical excerpts--than he is when responding to less tangible theories. Still, a good companion volume to Alter's more focused studies. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Alter, a noted scholar of the Bible as literature, complements his previous studies (such as The Art of Biblical Narrative , LJ 8/81) by continuing to explore the assumptions that make a literary reading of the Bible possible. To some, such an approach may seem irreverent, but this is far from Alter's aims. Granted, he believes the anonymous biblical writers were engaged in literary activity, but their personality was subsumed to the "imaginative authority" of the text and to "an order of truth that utterly transcends literature." Examples of Alter's detailed literary analyses of several typically laconic texts reveal the hidden richness of syntax, motifs, and allusion. While it is not the purpose of literary analysis to confirm faith, Alter maintains that neither is it detrimental to faith nor the spiritual authority of the texts. Recommended for informed laypersons and specialists.
- Carol J. Lichtenberg, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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