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Melville’s Bibles

Ilana Pardes


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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.

Praise For Melville’s Bibles

“A fascinating account.”
— Review of Biblical Literature

“A well-researched, attractively written examination of the larger biblical context of Melville’s masterpiece, and it provides a capable overview of a variety of nineteenth-century exegetical and hermeneutical traditions on the five Old Testament figures it scrutinizes.”
— Christianity and Literature

“Well argued and well written, this is a book for all students of Melville.”

“Each of the book’s five chapters is deftly written and certainly demonstrates Pardes’ proficiency in the fields of literary criticism and biblical exegesis.”
— Missiology

University of California Press, 9780520254558, 206pp.

Publication Date: February 5, 2008

About the Author

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).