This book considers a range of twentieth-century novelists who practise a creative mode of reading the Bible, exploring aspects of the Book of Genesis which more conventional biblical criticism sometimes ignores. Each chapter considers some of the interpretive challenges of the relevant story in Genesis, especially those noted by rabbinic midrash, which serves as a model for such creative rewriting of the biblical text. All the novelists considered, from Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and Thomas Mann to Jeanette Winterson, Anita Diamant and Jenny Diski, are shown to have been aware of the midrashic tradition and in some cases to have incorporated significant elements from it into their own writing. The questions these modern and postmodern writers ask of the Bible, however, go beyond those permitted by the rabbis and by other believing interpretive communities. Each chapter therefore attempts to chart intertextually where the writers are coming from, what principles govern their mode of reading and rewriting Genesis, and what conclusions can be drawn about the ways in which it remains possible to relate to the Bible.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Introduction: Wrestling with the Book of Genesis; Adam, Eve and the serpent: Mark Twain; Cain and Abel: John Steinbeck; From the flood to Babel: Jeanette Winterson; The sacrifice of Isaac: Jenny Diski; Rachel and her sisters: Anita Diamant; Joseph and his brothers: Thomas Mann; Conclusion; Select bibliography; Index.
Terry R. Wright is Professor of English Literature at Newcastle University, UK. Other books by Professor Wright include Theology and Literature, The Religion of Humanity, D.H. Lawrence and the Bible and several books about George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.
’as a work of comparative literature, of literary history, and of scholarship about the midrashic tradition, Wright’s study is a welcome resource.’ Biblical Interpretation ’For literary and biblical scholars alike, Wright's book is a welcome addition to literature studies.’ Christianity and Literature ’The Genesis of Fiction is, like the bible, a book worth reading. Despite Wright’s careful exegesis of his chosen title, this book supplies tools for reading fictions based on biblical books other than Genesis; it illuminates for interpreters of biblical narratives the role of midrash as rereadings that are either orthodox or subversive, sometimes humanist and feminist, and shows that both ancient midrash and modern biblical fiction, by the accretion of further interpretative layers, open up the bible for readers to whom it has often previously been an alien text.’ Literature and Theology ’This book considers a range of twentieth-century novelists who practise a creative mode of reading the Bible, exploring aspects of the Book of Genesis which more conventional biblical criticism sometimes ignores. ... The questions these modern and postmodern writers ask of the Bible, however, go beyond those permitted by the rabbis and other believing interpretive communities.’ Theological Book Review