Friday, December 12, 2003

Some thoughts about The Postmodern Bible

I said the other day that the book reads like a textbook; now nearly finished reading it, I find no reason to disagree with that assessment. I think it does need to be slightly modified, though. This book is a survey text--and at that, a fairly good one--that explains the important ideas that comprise major movements of literary theory: e.g. Reader-response Criticism, Narratological Theory, Deconstruction, Feminist & Marxist theories. It does do a great job of referring the reader to the primary texts, evaluating the various contributions made by the major thinkers of each movement.

Moreover, this text coheres because it does revolve around the application of these movements to a single text that presents unique challenges to those attempting, say, a deconstructionist reading. Having said that about this book's coherence, though, the title is perhaps misleading; the title did mislead me. I came to this book expecting to derive from it a sense of how the Bible is being read by scholars with respect to these theories, not a general introduction to those theories with a few comments about their applicability to the Bible.

So the book has proven a helpful refresher, reminding me of things I struggled to understand when I first began learning about them, and generally confirming the fact that six years of studying literature haven't been entirely wasted. It's this sense of being reminded of details that makes me think that the book might be an excellent text for English 470A at UW, "Contemporary Critical Theory," of which course the description thereof reads:
"Contemporary critical theory offers an array of competing constructions of text and culture. This course examines several topics in recent critical theory, such as gender, race, subjectivity, textuality, and popular culture."
Combined with readings from the primary texts, this book might prove a good way to organise the material that that course was supposed to impart. It's not, however, a book I'd chose if I was teaching a course on the Bible, or even on the Bible and literature.