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xii + 342 pp.

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Reworking the Bible
The Literary Reception-History of Fourteen Biblical Stories
Anthony C. Swindell

Reworking the Bible is a substantial account of the reception history of fourteen biblical stories—those of Eden, the Flood, Jacob and Esau, Moses and the Exodus, Joshua and Rahab, Samson, Nebuchadnezzar, Susanna, Esther, Jesus Christ, Salome, Lazarus, the Prodigal Son and the Descent into Hell. Full of fascinating detail of the afterlives of these biblical narratives, the book also offers a sophisticated theoretical analysis of the processes of reworking: major hypertexts from The Dream of the Rood to Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood come under the spotlight of the theories of Genette about rewriting and of Bakhtin about chronotopes and polyphony. In the final chapter, the material is viewed from the point of view of its spatial overtones, highlighting works that use the retelling of biblical stories to transport the reader to somewhere beyond controlling monological cultures.

As well as providing close readings of some extraordinary literary reworkings, the book provides a guide to the available critical literature. Both the biblical stories themselves and the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Racine, George Eliot, Turgenev, Kafka, Iris Murdoch, Julian Barnes, Ben Okri and many others are cast in a new light, including many plays, novels and poems that have been surprisingly neglected. The works discussed range from the hilarious to the horrific and have the capacity to refresh and even transform our reading of the Bible.

Anthony C. Swindell is Rector of St Saviour, Jersey, Channel Islands.

Series: Bible in the Modern World, 30
978-1-907534-01-0 hardback
Publication June 2010

1. Literary Reworkings in Perspective
2. Eden the Place
3. Noah and the Serio-Comical Flood
4. Jacob and Esau and Others
5. Moses Multiplied
6. Joshua in Jericho and Rahab in Rehab
7. Samson Surviving
8. Nebuchadnezzar Rules
9. Susanna and a World of Elders
10. Esther At Large
11. Christ Reborn
12. Salome and the Dance of Time
13. Lazarus Recycled
14. Returning to the Prodigal
15. In and Out of Hell
16. Narrative Upheavals (Categories and Classifications)
17. Towards Diegetic Outer Space

[T]his study is a powerful indication of the extraordinary impact of biblical literature on ‘Western’ culture and is also extremely useful as a catalogue raisonné of narratives grafted on the Bible. Importantly, the concept of hypertextuality could be very useful in biblical studies, in particular for the notion of ‘rewritten Bible’. The biblical text as such always constitutes a hypertext in relation to pretexts that are not always recoverable. In the present reviewer’s opinion, this concept could provide the answer to the vexed questions of the ‘edited text’, the redactor, and the relationship between synchrony and diachrony. Frank Polak, Review of Biblical Literature.