Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Mark Noll on Robert Alter on the KJV

Mark Noll, ‘The KJV Effect: American Prose and the King James Bible’, Books & Culture (May-June 2010).

The Alter book under review is his Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010). I’ve not read the book myself, but I note that the first chapter is available as an excerpt from the publishers.

Essentially, Alter examines the ways the KJV has informed the novels of six significant American authors – Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy.

As Noll summarises:

‘Despite a wealth of telling general commentary, Alter’s main business is to show through close readings how much his six novelists drew upon biblical style in creating their own works. Along the way, he also raises an overarching issue of great importance about the relationship of biblical style to biblical content, but that he leaves as an open-ended question for another day.’

I like that teaser at the end...

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