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xii + 222 pp.

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Reconfiguring Mark’s Jesus
Narrative Criticism after Poststructuralism
Scott S. Elliott

As readers, we are captivated by the resemblance of literary characters to actual persons. But it is precisely this illusion that allows characterization to play host to dominant ideologies of both ‘literature’ and ‘the self’. This is especially true when we confuse narrative figures and historical persons.

Over the last thirty years, New Testament narrative criticism has developed into a major methodological approach in Biblical Studies. But for all its ingenuity and promise, it has been reluctant to let go of conventional historical-critical moorings. As a result, one is hard pressed to find any substantive difference between reconstructions of the historical Jesus and narrative-critical readings of the character Jesus.

Reconfiguring Mark’s Jesus endeavors to reorient and advance narrative criticism by analysing the Gospel of Mark’s characterization of the figure of Jesus in relation to three other fundamental aspects of narrative discourse: focalization, dialogue, and plot. This intertextual reading, in which Mark is set alongside two ancient novels—Leucippe and Clitophon and the Life of Aesop—problematizes implicitly modern notions of literary characters as autonomous ‘agents’, as well as ‘naturalizing’ treatments of literary characters as historical referents. Highlighting the inherent ambiguity of narrative discourse, particularly with regard to referentiality, human agency, and the complex relationship between literature and history, Reconfiguring Mark’s Jesus illustrates the diverse and complex ways that narratives, of necessity, produce fragmented characters that refract the inherent paradoxes of narrative itself and of human subjectivity.

Scott S. Elliott is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, Adrian College, Michigan.

Series: Bible in the Modern World, 41
978-1-907534-31-7 hardback
Publication October 2011

Rather than explore Jesus’ s character as presented in the narrative and his physical and psychological make up Elliott used focalization, dialogue, and plot to explore this character as presented by discourse and through comparative reading with ancient Greek novels. The aim was not to reveal something new about Jesus but rather to explore Mark’s narrative and to recognize text and discourse as Other. This is an aim that Elliott certainly achieved. Poststructural theory is under utilized in New Testament narrative criticism, and Elliott has opened up new avenues for future research. This book is significant in that it contributes significantly to the view of Mark as literature, as a creation of an author, and as less of a historical text. Thomas P. Nelligan, Review of Biblical Literature.