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Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible

by

Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Alter's remarkable book breathes new life into a long-neglected topic, the study of style. With the finesse that is his trademark, Alter shows the importance of all that is lost in translation. As it delineates the surprising ways in which the King James Bible has shaped American prose, Pen of Iron redirects current literary criticism and theory."--Gary Saul Morson, author of "Anna Karenina" in Our Time

"In this subtle and impressive work, Robert Alter shows us in great, attentive detail what style is, demonstrating the work of language on every page and revealing the extraordinary things that American writers have done with the language of the King James Bible."--Michael Wood, author of Literature and the Taste of Knowledge

"This is a deft, spare, and deeply learned appraisal of the animating and abiding presence of the King James Bible in the language of the American novel, from the nineteenth century to today. If, as Robert Alter says, 'style is ultimately a mode of thinking,' Alter's own style shows a mode of thought that at once discerns, explicates, and registers in compressed, elegant formulations what is most distinctive about the works he examines."--Tracy Fessenden, author of Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature

Review:

"Among the many English translations of the Bible, a single one is responsible for the shape of some of the most iconic works of American literature, argues Alter, a comparative literature professor at University of California, Berkeley. Focusing not on the application of specific content but rather on the more elusive matter of style, Alter, author of more than 20 books, shows how the King James Version (especially its Old Testament) informed the work of Melville, Faulkner, Hemingway, Bellow, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy. Alter's knowledge of Hebrew and its translation in the KJV combined with his sensitivity to the sound and form of the distinctly American Moby-Dick, Absalom, Absalom! and The Road, among others, yield rich insights. By his own admission, Alter may be accused of occasionally overreaching associations. However, even if readers are unconvinced by some of the author's claims, they will find in this book a compelling case for style. Alter masterfully demonstrates how style itself affects and even conveys the meaning and power of great literature." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Mr. Alter hears biblical diction and rhythms in several 20th-century novels." --Stephen Miller, Wall Street Journal

Synopsis:

The simple yet grand language of the King James Bible has pervaded American culture from the beginning--and its powerful eloquence continues to be felt even today. In this book, acclaimed biblical translator and literary critic Robert Alter traces some of the fascinating ways that American novelists--from Melville, Hemingway, and Faulkner to Bellow, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy--have drawn on the rich stylistic resources of the canonical English Bible to fashion their own strongly resonant styles and distinctive visions of reality. Showing the radically different manners in which the words, idioms, syntax, and cadences of this Bible are woven into Moby-Dick, Absalom, Absalom!, The Sun Also Rises, Seize the Day, Gilead, and The Road, Alter reveals the wide variety of stylistic and imaginative possibilities that American novelists have found in Scripture. At the same time, Alter demonstrates the importance of looking closely at the style of literary works, making the case that style is not merely an aesthetic phenomenon but is the very medium through which writers conceive their worlds.

Synopsis:

The simple yet grand language of the King James Bible has pervaded American culture from the beginning--and its powerful eloquence continues to be felt even today. In this book, acclaimed biblical translator and literary critic Robert Alter traces some of the fascinating ways that American novelists--from Melville, Hemingway, and Faulkner to Bellow, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy--have drawn on the rich stylistic resources of the canonical English Bible to fashion their own strongly resonant styles and distinctive visions of reality. Showing the radically different manners in which the words, idioms, syntax, and cadences of this Bible are woven into Moby-Dick, Absalom, Absalom!, The Sun Also Rises, Seize the Day, Gilead, and The Road, Alter reveals the wide variety of stylistic and imaginative possibilities that American novelists have found in Scripture. At the same time, Alter demonstrates the importance of looking closely at the style of literary works, making the case that style is not merely an aesthetic phenomenon but is the very medium through which writers conceive their worlds.

About the Author

Robert Alter has taught Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1967. The author of more than twenty books, he has also published four volumes of Bible translation, most recently "The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary" (Norton). In 2009, Alter received the Robert Kirsch Award from the "Los Angeles Times" for lifetime contribution to American letters.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Prelude: America as a Scriptural Culture 1

Chapter 1: Style in America and the King James Version 9

Chapter 2: Moby- Dick Polyphony 42

Chapter 3: Absalom, Absalom! Lexicon 78

Chapter 4: Seize the Day American Amalgam 114

Chapter 5: The World through Parataxis 146

Index 185

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691128818
Author:
Alter, Robert
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton
Subject:
Bible and literature.
Subject:
American literature -- History and criticism.
Subject:
American - General
Subject:
Semiotics & Theory
Subject:
Biblical Criticism & Interpretation - General
Subject:
Theory
Subject:
Literature: Primary Works and Letters
Subject:
Comparative Literature
Subject:
Religion
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
March 2010
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8.5 x 5.5 in

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Product details 208 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691128818 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Among the many English translations of the Bible, a single one is responsible for the shape of some of the most iconic works of American literature, argues Alter, a comparative literature professor at University of California, Berkeley. Focusing not on the application of specific content but rather on the more elusive matter of style, Alter, author of more than 20 books, shows how the King James Version (especially its Old Testament) informed the work of Melville, Faulkner, Hemingway, Bellow, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy. Alter's knowledge of Hebrew and its translation in the KJV combined with his sensitivity to the sound and form of the distinctly American Moby-Dick, Absalom, Absalom! and The Road, among others, yield rich insights. By his own admission, Alter may be accused of occasionally overreaching associations. However, even if readers are unconvinced by some of the author's claims, they will find in this book a compelling case for style. Alter masterfully demonstrates how style itself affects and even conveys the meaning and power of great literature." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Mr. Alter hears biblical diction and rhythms in several 20th-century novels." --
"Synopsis" by , The simple yet grand language of the King James Bible has pervaded American culture from the beginning--and its powerful eloquence continues to be felt even today. In this book, acclaimed biblical translator and literary critic Robert Alter traces some of the fascinating ways that American novelists--from Melville, Hemingway, and Faulkner to Bellow, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy--have drawn on the rich stylistic resources of the canonical English Bible to fashion their own strongly resonant styles and distinctive visions of reality. Showing the radically different manners in which the words, idioms, syntax, and cadences of this Bible are woven into Moby-Dick, Absalom, Absalom!, The Sun Also Rises, Seize the Day, Gilead, and The Road, Alter reveals the wide variety of stylistic and imaginative possibilities that American novelists have found in Scripture. At the same time, Alter demonstrates the importance of looking closely at the style of literary works, making the case that style is not merely an aesthetic phenomenon but is the very medium through which writers conceive their worlds.
"Synopsis" by ,

The simple yet grand language of the King James Bible has pervaded American culture from the beginning--and its powerful eloquence continues to be felt even today. In this book, acclaimed biblical translator and literary critic Robert Alter traces some of the fascinating ways that American novelists--from Melville, Hemingway, and Faulkner to Bellow, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy--have drawn on the rich stylistic resources of the canonical English Bible to fashion their own strongly resonant styles and distinctive visions of reality. Showing the radically different manners in which the words, idioms, syntax, and cadences of this Bible are woven into Moby-Dick, Absalom, Absalom!, The Sun Also Rises, Seize the Day, Gilead, and The Road, Alter reveals the wide variety of stylistic and imaginative possibilities that American novelists have found in Scripture. At the same time, Alter demonstrates the importance of looking closely at the style of literary works, making the case that style is not merely an aesthetic phenomenon but is the very medium through which writers conceive their worlds.

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