Presentation on theme: "Biblical Allusions in Literature. The definition of an allusion: “A figure of speech that makes brief reference to a historical or literary figure, event,"— Presentation transcript:
Biblical Allusions in Literature
The definition of an allusion: “A figure of speech that makes brief reference to a historical or literary figure, event, or object” (Harmon and Holman 14). The purpose of the allusion is to give readers greater depth and knowledge of the writer’s intent/message by helping them to recognize and understand the word choice of the figure of speech. However, because of context, while allusions widen and deepen the text, at the same time they are limiting factors helping the reader not misread the author’s intent. When understood by the reader, allusions create a shared community, giving readers confidence that they understand the author’s intention.
Biblical allusions really have nothing to do with religion or putting forward Judaism or Christianity. They provide the writer with an opportunity to expand his/her ideas to demonstrate a timelessness inherent in the story being told. The references—when understood by the reader—expand the understanding of European and American literature, and allow the similarity in stories to unite a cultural inheritance. The biblical allusion uses words and/or situations that make direct references to biblical stories, characters, places, or motifs within a larger story/text. This is purposeful on the part of the writer. The reader should be careful not to impose his/her own religious belief on the text, but understand the writer’s purpose for the allusion.
Not all writers understand references themselves so readers must be careful not to assume the entirety of the biblical allusion is significant. All metaphors, motifs, and allusions break down at some point, even references within the Bible itself:
JosephJesus The favorite son of 12 sonsThe only son Sold into slavery by his brothers Sold by his disciple Judas into death Becomes a ruler second only to Pharaoh Resurrected and restored to heavenly authority
The story allusion of Joseph/Jesus breaks down if the attempt is made to make every point of either reference to the characters’ stories fit together exactly. JosephJesus The eldest son of Jacob’s favorite wife No favorite wife involved; only son of God Serves time in prisonNever imprisoned Joseph’s sons will inherit land in Canaan No natural children or physical inheritance
That is the entire allusion (bold); the purpose for the burials are entirely different as are the restorations to the world. Jesus’ intent in using the allusion is to have his primarily Jewish audience understand what will happen to him by referencing a previous, universally known story. JonahJesus Three days and three nights in belly of great fish, then vomited on the shore Buried three days and three nights after his death, then resurrected
Rather than providing the students with a list of potential allusions: Ask them to come up with a list of Bible stories, names of biblical characters; you might even use the names in the class: Daniel, David, John, Paul, Joshua, Abigail, Hannah, Mary, Rachel, Sarah.... Although the names may not have been given with biblical reference in mind, the teacher could have the students “google” their name and present the biblical character to the class. Have students take the statements from the information on allusions and biblical allusions and turn them into questions which they will use to analyze literary text. These questions will become “higher order” reader questions a la Bloom’s taxonomy.
Ask students to recall the nursery rhyme—even sing it! Write the words on the board. Ask students to identify the biblical allusions. Mary had a little lamb; Its fleece was white as snow, And everywhere that Mary went, The lamb was sure to go. It followed her to school one day, Which was against the rule. It may the children laugh and play To see a lamb at school.
MaryThe Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus (Matthew 1: 18-25) lambJesus as the lamb (John 1: 29) Fleece as white as snowFleece (Revelation 1: 14) White as snow (Isaiah 1: 18) Everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go Everywhere (Matthew 28: 20)
Little Lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee? Gave thee life and bid thee feed. By the stream and o'er the mead; Gave thee clothing of delight, Softest clothing wooly bright; Gave thee such a tender voice, Making all the vales rejoice! Little Lamb who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb I'll tell thee, Little Lamb I'll tell thee! He is called by thy name, For he calls himself a Lamb; He is meek and he is mild, He became a little child; I a child and thou a lamb, We are called by his name. Little Lamb God bless thee.
Put students in pairs; give them copies of the poem and have them read the poem twice—once silently; once out loud to each other. Encourage them to circle repeated words and write notes about their thinking as they read the poem. Use the reader questions developed from the definitions of allusion and biblical allusion for class discussion regarding the poem. Why does the speaker use questions? How is the poem reminiscent of “Mary... “?