- The Postmodern Bible Reader
The editors, members of the Bible and Culture Collective, have produced this volume as a supplement to the earlier volume by the Bible and Culture Collective, The Postmodern Bible (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). The Postmodern Bible was authored by the Collective and was divided into chapters concerning different postmodern approaches (for example, reader-response criticism, poststructuralist criticism, feminist and womanist criticism). The Postmodern Bible Reader is an anthology of essays concerning interpretation and the Bible written by those who are not “‘professional’ biblical scholars” (p. ix), but are philosophers, literary theorists, literary authors, and activists.
The volume begins with introductory material, including a selection from a piece of literature: a preface, acknowledgement, “Introduction: A Short Course in Postmodernism for Bible Readers,” pp. 1–33; and Thomas King, “Epigraph: from Green Grass, Running Water,” pp. 35–39. The volume is then divided into three parts. “Part I: Rereading the Bible” includes “Introduction,” pp. 43–57; Roland Barthes, “The Structural Analysis of Narrative: Apropos of Acts 10–11,” pp. 58–77; Umberto Eco, “On the Possibility of Generating Aesthetic Messages in an Edenic Language,” pp. 78–91; Julia Kristeva, “Reading the Bible,” pp. 92–101; Jacques Lacan, “Introduction to the Names-of-the-Father Seminar,” pp. 102–16; Hélène Cixous, “Dreaming in 1990,” pp. 117–27; J. Hillis Miller, “Parable and Performative in the Gospels and in Modern Literature,” pp. 128–41; and Mieke Bal, “Body Politic,” pp. 142–58.
“Part II: The Politics of Reading” includes “Introduction,” pp. 163–76; Terry Eagleton, “J. L. Austin and the Book of Jonah,” pp. 177–82; Ernesto Cardenal, “The Song of Mary (Luke 1:46—55),” pp. 183–87; Robert Allen Warrior, “Canaanites, Cowboys, and Indians: Deliverance, Conquest, and Liberation Theology Today,” pp. 188–94; Katie Geneva Cannon, “Slave Ideology and Biblical Interpretation,” pp. 195–204; Donna J. Haraway, “Ecce Homo, Ain’t (Ar’n’t) I a Woman, and Inappropriate/d Others: The Human in a Post-Humanist Landscape,” pp. 205–18; Zakia Pathak, “A Pedagogy for Postcolonial Feminists,” pp. 219–32; and Paul Hallam, “from The Book of Sodom,” pp. 233–45.
“Part III: The Conscience of the Bible” includes “Introduction,” pp. 249–64; Michel Serres, “Meals Among Brothers: Theory of the Joker,” 265–73; Elaine Scarry, “The Interior Structure of Made Objects,” pp. 274–95; Enrique Dussel, “from Ethics and Community,” pp. 296–318; Emmanuel Levinas, “On the Jewish Reading of Scriptures,” 319–32; Jacques Derrida, “Whom to Give to (Knowing Not to Know),” pp. 333–52; and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “‘Draupadi’ by Mahasweta Devi,” pp. 353–72. The volume ends with a helpful index.
As the editors note, defining “postmodern” can be difficult, but they have provided readers with an excellent selection of essays relating to the postmodern interpretation of [End Page 155] the Bible. Included are essays by names widely associated with postmodern approaches (for example, Jacques Derrida) but also names of individuals that few outside of religious studies would recognize and even fewer would associate with postmodern thinkers (for example, Ernesto Cardenal). This, however, is not a criticism of the volume, but one of its strengths, since its topic concerns postmodern approaches to the Bible by those who are not “‘professional’ biblical scholars.” In this way readers not only get technical, theoretical readings challenging the norms of modernity, but also readings that challenge these norms in sometimes more accessible and/or subtle ways.
Although the selection of essays is good, reading the volume nevertheless demands much of its readers. The editors recognize the difficulty of the esoteric vocabulary, complex arguments, and high use of allusions in the more theoretical essays (for example, the essay by Umberto Eco), but they also note the difficulty some of the other selections create, especially when they directly challenge readers’ assumptions about reality from the position of the Other (for example, the essay by Robert Allen Warrior). And these difficulties are real, especially if used in the classroom. However, the editors have provided much information to help readers overcome...