The course begins with a brief introduction to the literary traditions and materials within the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament (especially law, narrative, prophecy, hymn and laments) and the political contexts for the composition of certain Hebrew and Christian texts (including Genesis, Exodus, Amos, Psalms, Ruth, Mark, John and Revelation.) The second part of the course presents first the history of the reception of the Biblical texts in England, in both Latin and English translations, through the period of the Reformation - when the different constructions of the texts in English implied different programs for the reconstruction of personality and society, both in England and America. The class studies the ways that the Biblical materials function in the works of writers who take divergent ideological positions in seventeenth-century England (Herbert and Vaughan on the one hand; Milton and Bunyan on the other), and then, again, in the crises of society and belief in Victorian England (Arnold, Hopkins, George Eliot). In addition, each student has the opportunity to study the particular use that one writer or group has made of Biblical materials in shaping a response to the social and ideological issues of the day. Suggested writers and groups include Spenser, Donne, New England Pilgrims, early Quakers, Blake, Dickinson, Whitman, Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Liberation Theologians, Toni Morrison.
Prerequisites: ENGL 221 or ENGL 223 or permission of instructor.