Comparative Literature | Freshman Seminar
C100 | 24838 | Prof. Herbert Marks


Department of Comparative Literature- Fall, 2007

Freshman Seminar
Topic:  The Agnostic Bible
CMLT-C 100/24838    4:00-6:30 TR

Above class meets second eight weeks only
Above class carries COLL A&H requirements
Above class is open to Freshmen and Sophomores only
Above class meets with HON-H 226

There is arguably no book of world literature that has been more
embroidered, distorted, and mis-read than the Hebrew Bible. As the
basis of Christian theology and the ultimate source of Jewish law,
it is held up even today as a moral guide and a source of
metaphysical truth. But there is a significant strain in the Bible--
perhaps the predominant strain--that is impatient with piety and
suspicious of dogmatic wis-dom, particularly the wisdom of those who
presume on their knowledge of the uncanny central figure it calls
God or Yahweh. Indeed, if one reads against the grain of tradition,
the Bible is a book that revels in contradiction, invites questions
but frustrates answers, views human morality, like
divine “goodness,” with skepticism, and treats its characters,
legendary or historical, with irreverent license.

In this course we shall be exploring this skeptical strain in
biblical literature, beginning with the books of Ecclesiastes and
Job, continuing with parts of the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic
History, and concluding with the Gospel of Mark. Theoretical
questions about the epistemology of reading (how we know what we
know) will be a constant focus, but we shall approach them through
specific readings and narrowly focused discussion. Secondary texts
will include essays on general and special hermeneutics as well as
selections from modern biblical scholarship. Students will be asked
to write several short exer-cises and a final paper.