Biblical Narratives in American Culture
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Penn State University Press
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Preface: Tracking Down an Old Story
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In recent years, the world’s attention has focused on one particular people and the extreme pronouncements of its spokesmen. What motivates them? How do they justify their policies? How would they change the world? Though religion is not universally practiced among them and a number of sects continue to vie for influence...
1. Homeland and Its Discontents
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In the autumn of 2001, Americans began to hear their country referred to as the “homeland,” a compound noun linked to other nouns such as “security” and “defense.” “Homeland” was not a new word, of course, but after the devastating attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., it seemed to connote meanings new to most of us—vulnerability, fear of strangers,...
2. Biblical Time and the Full Narrative Cycle
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“Home” and “land” are concepts that we visualize in three-dimensional space. But before we can continue to explore the American homeland, we need to consider its fourth dimension: time. As St. Augustine remarked, “Time? If no one asks me, I know it, but once I have to explain it, I don’t know it.”1 Every culture’s members “know” what time is, but when asked to explain it,...
3. Myths of Curses, Myths of Blessings
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America was settled and its republic founded by Europeans steeped in a biblical theory of history, a belief that the ﬁnal age was dawning and that the kingdom of heaven would soon appear on earth. If we may judge by their rhetoric, the leaders of this enterprise assumed that their work had been inscribed in God’s providential book of time and had not only temporal consequences...
4. Narratives of the Night
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Night, that time not merely of peace and renewal but also of dreams and danger, provides a powerful setting for a number of traditional narratives.This darkness between two days is a liminal time that can serve to...
5. Abduction Narratives
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The biblical time line, superimposed on Tzvetan Todorov’s narrative model, characterizes phase 3 not only as a long night but also as a period of bondage. The Hebrew Bible (or, as Christians call it, the Old Testament) records two such periods. One began with the voluntary migration of the Children of Israel to Egypt and the eventual enslavement of their descendants under a...
6. Homeland Nostalgia and Holy War
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Any nation’s homeland mythology will include, among its cultural narratives, certain accounts of its founding that do not simply magnify its achievements but also reduce its cognitive dissonance. Its founding myths and epics will attempt to take historical events, which usually involve an aggressive seizure of land and the scattering, enslavement, and/or genocide of its former inhabitants...
7. Secular Modernism, Biblical Style
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As I noted in my preface, the concept of master narrative was introduced by Jean-François Lyotard in 1979 with The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. His two modernist master narratives, or “metanarratives,”were scientific objectivity (the “speculative narrative”) and social progress (the “emancipative narrative”). These were the founding principles, he said,...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 2 figures
Publication Year: 2007