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424Philosophy and Literature There are many indications that the writings of Hamann, Herder, perhaps even Lessing, initiated a "linguistic turn" in philosophy whose metatheoretical implications are far more radical than Beiser is wiUing to admit. To recover fuUy the revolutionary potential ofthose writers, however, requires hermeneutic strategies flexible enough to acknowledge the rhetoricity of texts as an irreducible part of their meaning. It is the great merit of Beiser's study to caU attention to a group of fascinating thinkers who, for too long, have been marginalized by a powerful but aU-too-restrictive sense of what philosophy is and ought to be. But the story diat assigns those thinkers their proper place in the history of antifoundationaUst thought remains yet to be written. Indiana UniversityEva M. Knodt The Narrative Covenant: Transformations of Genre in the Growth ofBiblicalLiterature, by David Damrosch; xi & 352 pp. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978, $21.95. "Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author, and there remains nothing but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities. The story of Eve and the serpent, and of Noah and his ark, drops to a level with the Arabian tales, without the merit of being entertaining ." That was Tom Paine's view in The Age ofReason and Damrosch's new book almost proves his point: it does indeed conclude with a comparison with the Thousand and One Nights. But, where Paine hated the Bible, Damrosch is in the long tradition of its literary admirers, and the comparison is the last daring step in an exceptionally wide-ranging and thought-provoking study. Damrosch focuses on the transformation of genre, "the narrative covenant between author and reader" (p. 2), in biblical narrative, and part ofhis purpose is to show that this focus requires the integration of normally separate areas of study, comparison with neighboring literature, historical source study, and literary analysis. This is a sizeable and impressive undertaking that few wiU be able to match. Presentingbiblical narrative as acomplex reuse ofepic, Damrosch firstsurveys Near-Eastern historiography and epic and then moves to a discussion of the GilgameshEpicand Genesis 1-1 1. Nextcomes "Yahwist(s) and Deuteronomist(s)," a chapter perhaps best left to the small group of specialists whose opinions on the dating of these two bodies of material it surveys. Fortunately, the next chapter, "the growth of the David story," remains rich in suggestion, even if the carefuUy hedged arguments on dating do prove elusive. Where Genesis 11 1 showed a kind of historicization of epic material, here we see "the growth Reviews425 ofepic themes, techniques, and perspectives within prose narrative ofhistorical events" (p. 180), a growth much influenced by the art Damrosch has found in Genesis. A glimpse of the way Genesis 1-11 is treated shows something of the book's quality. It is fundamentaUy a "version of a creation-flood epic" (p. 119), and the comparisons instantiy help us to read it. Changes such as de-emphasizing or removing scenes in heaven and the underworld become obvious, as does their cause: the monotheistic point of view robs them of dramatic interest. Conflicts that took place among the gods or the dead now take place in earthly settings, and the birth of Noah becomes a parallel to the creation of mankind in the Atrahasis Epic. The Eden story "is not so much about the birth of sin as about the beginnings of a separation between God and Adam and Eve" (p. 138), which fits with a reading of Genesis 2—1 1 as developing "the theme that human culture is a product of the existential state of separation from God" (p. 142). Adam and Eve now drift apart from God through the very qualities that they share with him, and paradoxically their guilt comes from their innocence. Perhaps this seems like ingenuity run wild, yet the case remains suggestive when one returns to the text. Not all Damrosch's readings succeed: few will agree that Leviticus is "a unique combination of elements held within a majestic structure, the culmination of biblical narrative" (p. 297). Never before has Leviticus received favorable literary attention, letalone been acclaimed. Amongthe very few quasi-literary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 424-425
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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