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xvi + 297 pp.

£30 / $47.50 / €42.50
Scholar's Price

£60 / $95 / €85
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The Bible Retold by Jewish Artists, Writers, Composers and Filmmakers
Edited by Helen Leneman, Barry Dov Walfish

Helen Leneman and Barry Dov Walfish, both specialists in biblical reception history, have compiled an unusually rich collection of new essays by experts in their fields. This book is a pioneering attempt to portray and analyse the visions of twentieth- and twenty-first century Jewish artists working in different media—visual art, literature (novels, poetry and short stories), music (opera, oratorio and song), and film—who have retold biblical narratives through their art. Reading these essays together will bring a new appreciation and understanding of what makes the perspective of these visual artists, writers, composers and filmmakers on the Hebrew Bible uniquely Jewish.

All of these Jewish visions can be considered a form of modern midrash, as the artists imaginatively fill in gaps in the biblical narrative, bringing a modern sensibility to the meanings of the stories.

Under the heading ‘Biblical Women’, the stories of the matriarchs, Hagar, and other biblical women are re-imagined in the visual arts, poetry and music. Several further chapters focus on the story of the Aqedah (Binding of Isaac), as represented in the visual arts, literature and music. Other retellings of biblical narratives through short stories are then examined, while yet other chapters explore the books of Esther and Psalms as envisioned and retold in the visual arts, opera, literature and film

These retellings, analysed and discussed by the authors of this ground-breaking volume, will stimulate the reader to view the texts in new ways or to confront their challenge to personal or traditional interpretations of those texts.

Helen Leneman is an independent scholar, singer and pianist living in Bethesda, Maryland.
Barry Dov Walfish is Judaica specialist at the University of Toronto Libraries and Curator of Judaica at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

Series: Bible in the Modern World, 71
978-1-909697-93-5 hardback
Publication October 2015

I. Biblical Women

1. Edna Southard
Reclaiming the Biblical Narrative: Tradition, Innovation, and Gaze
in Abel Pann’s Art and Politics

2. Lynne Swarts
Cultural Zionism, Gender and Orientalism:
Ephraim Moses Lilien’s Bibelplan and its Biblical Heroines

3. Rachel Adelman
Breaking the Distaff of Silence –
The Voice of Rachel the Matriarch in Modern Israeli Poetry

4. Ellen Frankel
‘What troubles you, Hagar?’ On Writing the Lyrics for ‘Hagar’
Andrea Clearfield
Musical Commentary by the Composer

II. The Aqedah

5. Yael S. Feldman
Deliverance Denied: Isaac’s Sacrifice in Israeli Arts and Culture:
A Jewish-Christian Exchange ?

6. Nehama Aschkenasy
Reversing the Aqedah: The Biblical and the Mystical in Grossman's
‘To the End of the Land’

7. Siobhán Dowling Long
The Death of Isaac:
A Musical Retelling by Judith Lang Zaimont

III. Biblical Narratives in Short Stories

8. Helen Leneman (and Ellen Feig)
A Transgressive Re-telling of Exodus: ‘Plagued’ by Shalom Auslander

9.Wendy Zierler
Ladders to the Sky: Jewish Hopes and Dreams

IV. Esther

10. Barry Dov Walfish
Images of Esther in Contemporary Jewish Art

11. Helen Leneman
Esther Re-imagined in Jewish Opera

12. Naama Harel
The Book of Esther and Persecutor-Persecuted Politics
in Manger’s Megile Lider and Gitai’s Esther

V. The Psalms

13. Max Stern and Helen Leneman
Setting the Psalms to Music:
Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms

14. Roberta Lander Markus
Spiritual Longings and their Expression in the Biblical Art of Benn

The great strength of this book is its broad and wide-ranging approach, which reveals trends in 20th-century Jewish art based on the Bible to the reader. … Leneman and Walfish have produced an impressive and thought-provoking collection and an important contribution to the study of biblical interpretation and Jewish art. Devorah Schoenfeld, Journal of the Bible and its Reception.

This collection does what it says on the cover, which is to provide a series of studies focusing on a range of media which modern Jewish exponents have used to portray themes and characters from the Hebrew … With its numerous musical examples and colour illustrations, this collection is yet further testimony (if any were needed) to the richness of the biblical interpretative tradition, giving as it does a fascinating glimpse into the multifaceted world of Jewish interpretations. Deborah W. Rooke, Society for Old Testament Study Book List.

I know of no other volume with such sustained reflection on Jewish reception, so this volume is making a significant contribution to the field of reception history …
The Bible Retold is quite broadly helpful and applicable in a variety of contexts. I plan to use many of its specific examples of biblical reception in the undergraduate classroom …
In various and varied ways,
The Bible Retold inspires a re-reading of the biblical text. Sara M. Koenig, Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception.