Literary Criticism of the Hebrew Scriptures

REL541
Fall 2016
T TH 1:30pm - 2:50pm
Area: 
Area I
MDIV Requirements: 
Old Testament
Professor: 
Permission Not Required
No Limit to Enrollment
Course Description: 

Lively and productive tensions have been generated within biblical studies concerning the strengths and vulnerabilities of contemporary literary analysis and the challenges that such analysis has posed to the historical-critical paradigm. Historicizing approaches that focus on the genetics and provenance of biblical texts have been found less than satisfying by literary-minded scholars who value attentiveness to the literary artistry of ancient texts as coherent cultural productions. But literary criticism has itself come under fire from several directions. Challenges have been posed by ideological critics who view texts as implicated in the performance of power relations and who deplore the failure of some historicist and literary-critical readers to take full account of social and political dimensions of texts and interpretations. Objections to literary criticism have also been raised by poststructuralists seeking to destabilize traditional notions of author, determinate meaning, and other foundational assumptions guiding the work of many historical positivists and modernist literary critics. This course will assess the classic contributions of Robert Alter and Meir Sternberg to literary criticism of the Hebrew Scriptures. We will then engage a variety of topics in literary criticism, including developments in genre criticism; diverse construals of authorial intention and reader agency; critical analysis of aspects of plot, narratorial voice, characterization, and operations of metaphor and irony; and the theorizing of intertextuality.

Background Expected: 

One semester of Rel. 500 or equivalent prior study of the Hebrew Scriptures is required. If you want to make the latter case (equivalent prior study), please be prepared to show the professor the syllabus/syllabi from that prior coursework before the second class session.

Course Requirements: 

Literary analysis of a biblical text (8 to 10 pages)

Term paper (11 to 14 pages)

Regular class participation, which includes conscientious preparation of biblical and secondary material for class, attentive engagement in class discussions, and preparation of a 300- to 350-word abstract for the term paper

Basis of Evaluation: 

Literary analysis  (25% of course grade)

Term paper  (60%)

Class participation (15%)