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. An introductory chapter discusses the history of biblical interpretation in the modern period, leading up to the development of reception-history. Chapter 2 reviews the fourteen examples in order of publication, from J. D. Levenson on Job in the twentieth-century to Kim Paffenroth on Judas. Each work is summarized and examined critically. Chapter 3 takes a step back from the immediate subject-matter, looking at the work of major theorists of rewritten scripture, including Harold Fisch, Northrop Frye, Piero Boitani, Larry Kreitzer, David Brown and George Steiner. Chapters 4-7 explore literary examples cited by the fourteen reception-history writers, both in relation to the readings those authors offer and to alternative readings. There is also an examination of significant rewritings of the relevant biblical stories not discussed by the fourteen. Each of these chapters has a different thematic emphasis, two concentrating on theology, one on more luxuriant retellings, and one on the topic of 'The Other'. Chapters 8-11 focus more on deconstructing the fourteen reception-histories themselves, looking at their master-narratives - these range from polemical feminism through 'objective' cultural history to the quest for a postmodern theology within literature - and also at topics which the fourteen cover en passant, including conflations between biblical stories and other biblical stories and conflations with non-biblical stories. Chapter 10 looks at the extent to which the fourteen cover the available ground and at what they omit. Chapter 11 explores the idea that reception-histories seem compelled to navigate by means of 'key' masterworks. Chapter 12 compares the fourteen reception-histories with three reception-histories of non-biblical literature. Chapter 13 looks at notions of closure and non-closure in relation to the understanding of canons, religious and literary. Chapter 14 draws conclusions, suggesting that any reception-history is bound to be selective and that the field as a whole promises to relight the significance of biblical stories.
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"What readers of Swindell's book will discover, however, is that the literary rewriting of the Bible presents a powerful challenge to the past (and present) dominance of 'mainstream', authoritarian or fundamentalist attempts to close its interpretation." - Prof. Terence Wright University of Newcastle "... 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"
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