Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A bleg: sources for teaching the Bible as literature

Next school year I want to go through parts of the Bible with my boys, focusing on literature aspects of it. That is, if they're going to fully understand authors such as Faulkner, Melville, Lincoln, Marilynne Robinson, (and many others), they need to be grounded as to what's in the Bible and the language of the King James Version.

So I have a question for anyone that has some expertise or exposure on this subject. I hesitate to raise it with secular homeschool friends ("You're teaching the Bible?" [both eyebrows arched]) or religious homeschool friends ("You're teaching the Bible as literature?" [both eyebrows arched]). I already know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of multiple-arched eyebrows.

Some sources I plan to include is Robert Alter's Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible (2010). Another book I'm familiar with that would be helpful is Adam Nicolson's God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, so they understand how its eloquence and, at times, inaccuracies came into being. I've planning on using the Oxford World Classics' copy of the King James Bible (and Apocrypha) since it a) is inexpensive, b) has Apocryphal texts, and c) supposedly has a good history of the Bible in its Introduction. And I'm willing to go through the MIT Open Courseware course on The Bible since the course description covers a lot of what I'm trying to cover...albeit for a younger crowd. Although if you're going to approach the writing as literature, I don't understand the exclusion of the Psalms.

So my request is to pass on any sources you think would be helpful on this subject. I'm sure there's more out there, but I'm a little overwhelmed with the end of the schoolyear and planning for next year. Not to mention the whole eyebrow thing I'm trying to avoid. Thank you so much!

9 comments:

Jean said...

Ahahahah, your fellow homeschooler laughs sympathetically. A high-school-level textbook came out a few years ago that I thought looked kind of interesting. But what I was really going to say was, did you ever come across Secular Homeschooling magazine when it was being published? She did a whole big thing on Bible as Lit studies. I'll go look through my old issues...

Jean said...

Well, she wrote a really good article, which begins with exactly the same disclaimer that you make, but the sources are mostly for younger kids. How old are yours?

I used Memoria Press' 1-year Classical Studies curriculum a couple of years ago. It mixes Biblical literacy, Greek myths, and Roman history into a single year. They much prefer you to buy the 3 year Christian Studies book but that is presumably more sectarian, whereas the 1-year is plain Bible stories. It's aimed at 4-8th grades. http://www.memoriapress.com/curriculum/introduction-classical-studies

Dwight said...

I heard that laugh...
next year will be at around a 7th/8th grade level (boys are 12 and will-be-10) for literature.

Thanks for the link. It seems her approach focuses more on the stories while I want to convey more than just what happened, if that makes sense. For example, when it comes to Job I'd like to at least raise some of the questions of the story (without overwhelming them...no need for therapy, yet). David Denby's notes on revisiting his college courses in Great Books, for example, might be a decent place to start. His recent book, Lit Up, may actually be the real impetus to this quest. Well, Gyorgy Spiro's novel Captivity did quite a number on me, too.

I think I may have found a decent book proposal for homeschooling at the junior and high school level...that dirty secret neither camp, secular or religious, wants to discuss but might be willing to incorporate in their curriculum!

Thanks so much for your notes!

George said...

Not wholly on-topic perhaps, but Jaroslav Pelikan's Whose Bible is It? is a short and readable introduction to how the canon came to be. I would also suggest picking up a Book of Common Prayer while you are at it, since for several generations the majority of the English would have heard more than read the Bible, and heard it in the liturgy. That would have changed some with the increase in literacy and the rise of other sects, it is true.

Dwight said...

Totally on topic, George. Thanks for the suggestions...they sound like nice additions!

Dwight said...

I've had limited time to look into this right now, but compiling as many resources as I can.

It looks like there are quite a few resources and classes on this topic, which is great. A few that I've found just from the first page of a search...
The Bible As Literature: An Introduction (5th Edition) by John B. Gabel
Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language by David Crystal
The Bible As/in Literature by James S. Ackerman (I haven't found any comments on this one...other than it was used in this 12th grade level course)
Professor Paul Brians at Washington State University has a list of Some Interesting and Useful Books on the Bible for Use in Research Papers for The Bible as Literature

I'll add to this list in the comments as I have a chance...

Charles Ellsworth said...

There are so many good options available. I recommend two from Yale -- Introduction to the Bible by Christine Hayes, and New Testament History and Literature by Dale B. Martin; both have helped me, especially in my readings of the Bible, Flannery O'Connor, and William Blake (the three spotlighted in my new blog, which I invite you and your visitors to visit: http://propheticvisionsblakeandoconnor.blogspot.com/).

Charles Ellsworth said...

Postscript: Anything by Robert Alter is worthwhile!

Dwight said...

Thanks so much, Charles. I'll have to check everything out.

I've only read Pen of Iron by Alter it was outstanding. I'll have to look into some of his other works, too. Thanks again.