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Spring 2013 Course Descriptions

English 3600  The Bible as Literature

Section 001       CRN 31618
The Bible as Literature    1400-1515 TR

No single book other than the Bible has had the shaping influence of Western thought, initially as revealed truth then as the motive to search for the historical truth of its production and the situation of its authors.   Read and studied for two millennia, the Bible has moved innumerable intelligent men and women, but biblical reading has most often been centered in theological concerns. Scholars, Jews and Christians as well as secular readers have found the Bible a source of profound literary force and authority, the virtues and conflicts therein instructive for writers of great stature from Dante and Milton through Blake and Joyce to Melville and Douglass. In recent decades, critical literary methods of reading the Bible have offered perspectives that have affected even professional, theological biblical studies.   Rarely assimilated now in early youth, modern readers of literature all too often encounter biblical allusions without recognition, and everyday English speakers employ—often unknowingly—hundreds of phrases and images lodged from previous generations who knew the King James Version, perhaps only by ear.

This course seeks to open biblical reading through literary analysis to a broad range of perspectives that includes students of literature and students of the Bible—atheists, agnostics and the religious from all faiths are all welcome. Our principal text will be selected Hebrew and New Testament chapters from the King James Version (KJV), still arguably that translation which best preserves the literary qualities of the original languages. Its philological deficiencies and sometimes misleading archaic constructions, however, make the New Revised Standard Version a necessary reference, so we will also have that translation for consultation when needed.

Course requirements include devout participation (discussion, reading quizzes and brief responses—20%), a critical essay (8-10 pages—40%), a midterm essay examination (15%) and a final essay examination (25%). (Group 5)