Reconfiguring Mark’s Jesus: Narrative Criticism after Poststructuralism
Elliott, Scott S.
Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2011 pp. x + 222. $105.00
The Bible in the Modern World, 41
Description: As readers, we are captivated by the resemblance of literary characters to actual persons. But it is precisely this illusion that allows characterization to play host to dominant ideologies of both ‘literature’ and ‘the self’. This is especially true when we confuse narrative figures and historical persons.
Over the last thirty years, New Testament narrative criticism has developed into a major methodological approach in Biblical Studies. But for all its ingenuity and promise, it has been reluctant to let go of conventional historical-critical moorings. As a result, one is hard pressed to find any substantive difference between reconstructions of the historical Jesus and narrative-critical readings of the character Jesus.
Reconfiguring Mark’s Jesus endeavors to reorient and advance narrative criticism by analysing the Gospel of Mark’s characterization of the figure of Jesus in relation to three other fundamental aspects of narrative discourse: focalization, dialogue, and plot. This intertextual reading, in which Mark is set alongside two ancient novels—Leucippe and Clitophon and the Life of Aesop—problematizes implicitly modern notions of literary characters as autonomous ‘agents’, as well as ‘naturalizing’ treatments of literary characters as historical referents. Highlighting the inherent ambiguity of narrative discourse, particularly with regard to referentiality, human agency, and the complex relationship between literature and history, Reconfiguring Mark’s Jesus illustrates the diverse and complex ways that narratives, of necessity, produce fragmented characters that refract the inherent paradoxes of narrative itself and of human subjectivity.
Subjects: Bible, New Testament, Synoptic Gospels, Mark, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches, Narrative Criticism
Review by Thomas P. Nelligan
Citation: Thomas P. Nelligan, review of Scott S. Elliott, Reconfiguring Mark’s Jesus: Narrative Criticism after Poststructuralism, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2014).
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