Monday, December 26, 2011

Literature and the Bible

One of the things that strike you when you delve into English literature is the extent of the influence of the Bible, a place great writers find hard not to go to when looking for ways to reach the soul. Here is Marilyn Robinson, writing primarily about William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, and secondarily about Fyodor Dostoyevski's The Idiot--two of the great portrayals of Christ figures in literature--in the New York Times:
Each of these works reflects a profound knowledge of Scripture and tradition on the part of the writer, the kind of knowledge found only among those who take them seriously enough to probe the deepest questions in their terms. These texts are not allegories, because in each case the writer has posed a problem within a universe of thought that is fully open to his questioning once its terms are granted. Here the use of biblical allusion is not symbolism or metaphor, which are both rhetorical techniques for enriching a narrative whose primary interest does not rest with the larger resonances of the Bible. In fact these great texts resemble Socratic dialogues in that each venture presupposes that meaning can indeed be addressed within the constraints of the form and in its language, while the meaning to be discovered through this argument cannot be presupposed. Like paintings, they render meaning as beauty.
Read the rest here.

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