21855 The Literary Hebrew Bible: An Introduction

What does it mean for a biblical character to be "fraught with background," in Erich Auerbach's evocative phrase? How can we approach the Bible's dense, terse, paratactic prose as literary interpreters? What are the conventions and restrictions of biblical poetry, and how does the text move within these rules? In this course, students will read key narrative and poetic texts from the Hebrew Bible, de-familiarize traditional stories, acquire tools of literary analysis particular to biblical poetics, and ask questions about the literary legacy of this complicated, messy collection. Along the way, we will treat important comparative literary issues the Hebrew Bible highlights, including distinctions between history and fiction, literary genre, biblical translation, and notions of canon and tradition. Though our primary focus will be on the biblical text itself, our reading will be aided by foundational texts on biblical poetics (including works by Auerbach, Alter, Sternberg and Kawashima) and more recent examples of feminist, queer-theoretical, postmodern and postcolonial biblical criticism.

Chloe Blackshear
2018-2019 Winter