Literary Criticism March 12th

Literary Criticism

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Page 1: Literary Criticism

Literary Criticism

March 12th

Page 2: Literary Criticism


• Literary criticism/approaches/theory• Comment from commentaries• Literary basics• Fokkelman• Auerbach • Narrative structures• Fokkelman • Literary approach - discourse analysis - Trible/Foxx• Gillingham• Fokkelman

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Genesis 1-3


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What is literature?

  everything in print?    C.Di Girolamo, A Critical Theory of Literature (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1981)

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What is literature?

a subset of written texts?



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What is literary criticism?

Literary criticism is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.

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What is literary theory?

Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature.Culler, J. (1997) Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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"Form Criticism and Beyond"  James Muilenburg, Presidential AddressSociety of Biblical Literature, 1968

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"New" literary criticism

Is it so very different? Does it follow naturally on from historical-critical, source...? Are they conflicting/complementary?

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The two literary strands and the theological agenda live in uneasy tension 'shrewdly held together in the canon' (p15)

 J and P are essential to presenting the full anguish and persistence of the troubled relationship [creator <> creation] thus even in the face of literary dissection, a theological coherence is evident (p16)

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Literary structure of 2.4 - 3.24 is

"concentric palistrophic pattern"

A B C D C' B' A'

(sonata form!)

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Reading the text (the text)

approach characterised by


characterisationpoint of view



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"Being able to work with such simple but basic narratological tools as plot, hero and points of view is much more important in the encounter with the Bible than being devout" (p 206)

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Distinction between biblical narrative and Greek tragedy?

How does Auerbach's argument help us reflect on what we are trying to do when we read biblical narratives?

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Narrative features

The narrator is reliable and omniscient: that is, he serves as the voice and perspective of God The narration is scenic: that is, the emphasis is on direct action and interaction of the characters rather than on descriptive detail of the environs The narratives are sparsely written: that is they focus on what is essential for the narrative The author will use Leitwortstil: that is, he will repeat a key word or word root to draw attention to thematic issues

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Narrative features

The author employs wordplay, such as words or roots used with different meanings or words that sound alike; these are generally used for ironic contrasts The author signals heightened speech using poetic diction: that is, elevated diction of a speech that is evidence of its significance; often oracular, it may even be divine speech The author uses repetition, such as of similar kinds of events, and even of scenes, in different circumstances The author employs analogy and contrast, where the characters and scenes are like and unlike one another

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Discourse analysis

A text is an act of communication.  A text is a means by which  the speaker (or author) operates on that shared picture of the world to produce some effect (the message) in the audience. (p 6)


C.John Collins, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary and Theological Commentary (Phillipsburg, P&RPublishing, 2006)

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Collins cont.

"The authors and their audiences also share linguistic and literary conventions, which indicate how to interpret the text..."

"...For an audience to interpret a text properly, they must cooperate with the author as he has expressed himself in the text."

"This also means that, for the purpose of ascertaining intent, it matters little whether the author is a single individal or a committee"

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An approach


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An approach, among many


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"The Bible is not a picture book for our own ideas, which we open only if we want our opinions confirmed, or our vanity tickled. Nor is it a box of prooftexts." (p 207)

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Literary approach to Genesis 1-3

Consider the structure 1, 2-3; 1-3

Appreciate the quality of the literature

Canonical over historical

Authority / inspiration