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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

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

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2010 pp. xii + 342. $90.00

Series Information
Bible in the Modern World, 30

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Description: 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.

Subjects: Methods, Historical Approaches, History, History of Interpretation

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Review by Frank H. Polak
Published 2/11/2012
Citation: Frank H. Polak, review of Anthony C. Swindell, Reworking the Bible: The Literary Reception-History of Fourteen Biblical Stories, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2012).


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