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Many writers in antebellum America sought to reinvent the Bible, but no one, Ilana Pardes argues, was as insistent as Melville on redefining biblical exegesis while doing so. In Moby-Dick he not only ventured to fashion a grand new inverted Bible in which biblical rebels and outcasts assume center stage, but also aspired to comment on every imaginable mode of biblical interpretation, calling for a radical reconsideration of the politics of biblical reception. In Melville's Bibles, Pardes traces Melville's response to a whole array of nineteenth-century exegetical writings—literary scriptures, biblical scholarship, Holy Land travel narratives, political sermons, and women's bibles. She shows how Melville raised with unparalleled verve the question of what counts as Bible and what counts as interpretation.
List of Illustrations
1. Playing with Leviathan: Job and the Aesthetic Turn in Biblical Exegesis
2. "Jonah Historically Regarded": Improvisations on Kitto's Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
3. "Call Me Ishmael": The Bible and the Orient
4. Ahab, Idolatry, and the Question of Possession: Biblical Politics
5. Rachel's Inconsolable Cry: The Rise of Women's Bibles
Ilana Pardes is Professor of Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. She is the author of Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach and The Biography of Ancient Israel: National Narratives in the Bible (UC Press).
“Well argued and well written, this is a book for all students of Melville.”—M.S. Stephenson Choice
“A fascinating account.”—Mark Elliott Review Of Biblical Literature
"This is a splendid book, showing Ilana Pardes as a scholar-critic at the height of her powers. Distinguished and full of originality, Melville's Bibles
brings into play a richly nuanced and minutely informed sense of the multiple roles of the Bible in antebellum American culture. This work is an important new understanding of the nature of Melville's major novel."—Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley
"With a command of Biblical scholarship and a keen textual sensitivity, Pardes deftly analyzes the ways in which Melville incorporates Biblical language, genre, plot, character, and debate in Moby-Dick. Few critics have captured Melville's Biblical apprehensions and pretensions as well as Pardes or with her intellectual range and sympathy."—Samuel Otter, Associate Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley