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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 222 Reviews referential interpretation once the canonical text is even remotely dated (a prime example of which is American jurisprudence). What is of greater interest is the fact that, in each derivative canon community, interpreters focus on this or that text and ignore others without denying the canonicity of the division of canon or of the book under consideration. The question arises, did all passages of the canon retain the authority that the central, dogmatic passages did? In other words, given that certain texts enjoy a greater authority than others, what distinguishes the text that is central within a canon community from another inside the same community that is less central? In sum, the political basis of the interpretative process must be weighed more directly than it is in the present volume. None of these queries implies a deficiency in the volume; each is at best an associative attempt to carry the discussion found within the volume beyond its present limits, and none contradicts the theses that the authors affirm. In general, such points reflect the measure in which this collection is stimulating to thought. Without doubt, Mikra is by far the finest collection ever assembled on such issues. It is at once a reference work and a promise of much work to come. Baruch Halpern York University North York. Ontario M3J IP3 UNDERDOGS AND TRICKSTERS: A PRELUDE TO BIBLICAL FOLKLORE. By Susan Niditch. New Voices in Biblical Studies. pp. xv + 186. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987. Cloth. In the early decades of this century Hermann Gunkel initiated a revolution in biblical criticism by integrating his knowledge of folklore studies into his work on the Bible. In his commentaries on Genesis and Psalms, as well as in his other writings, Gunkel inquired into matters of folk genre and life-setting (Sitz im Leben) of the stories and utterances that later became part of the Bible. Many of Gunkel's insights have become enshrined in what biblical scholars call "form criticism." In recent years some scholars have noted that Gunkel's insights, which are now semicanonical in many circles, are flawed in parts because of some of the crude Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 223 Reviews presuppositions of folklore studies in his day. The obvious solution to this problem is to consult the modem state of folklore studies, not simply to correct Gunkel's legacy, but, more important, to enrich the study of the Bible by renewing the bond between folklore studies and biblical studies that Gunkel began. This is essentially Susan Niditch's task in her new book which sets its goal to be a "prelude to biblical folklore." Niditch is an accomplished biblical scholar and is well-versed in the field of folklore studies. In her book she seeks to introduce the field of folklore studies to a general audience and then to approach several biblical narratives from a folklore perspective. She describes her approach as eclectic, drawing on the work of many folklorists such as Stith Thompson, Vladimir Propp, Alan Dundes, and Albert Lord. After her general introduction to folklore studies Niditch devotes the rest of the book to folkloristic interpretations of several biblical narratives: the "wife-sister" tales of Genesis, the Jacob and Joseph stories, and the book of Esther. In general the book is well organized, written in a pleasant style, and readily accessible to non-specialist readers. This is a book that would be useful for teaching as well as for individual edification. Niditch largely succeeds in showing the relevance of folklore studies to an informed reading of biblical literature. Her exploration of the significance of two major types of biblical protagonists-tricksters and wise heroes-is particularly illuminating. She elucidates nicely some of the similarities and contrasts in the stories of Jacob and Joseph, the one a trickster and the other a wise hero, a father and son whose careers seem to mirror each other in the general succession of events. The two stories also reflect the ascent of the underdog, a folkloric idea with much psychological resonance. Esther is a wise heroine whose ability to manipulate the system to achieve her ends carries both comedy and comfort for an...


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