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Not Representing Jesus: Fictional Approximations of Jesus in Contemporary Literature

Derbyshire, John Mark (2015) Not Representing Jesus: Fictional Approximations of Jesus in Contemporary Literature. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

In this thesis I begin by showing that historical, theological and fictional representations of Jesus are often based on reductive readings of the Gospel narrative and can lead to dogmatic statements about who Jesus was. I argue that some authors of contemporary fiction approach the biblical text in a more imaginative way, and that by misreading the Gospels they are able to approximate the teachings of Jesus, without depending on the creation of explicit Christ-figures. I have called these narratives fictional approximations of Jesus. I use Harold Bloom’s theory of misreading, George Steiner and Valentine Cunningham’s notions of heresy, and Frank Kermode, Geoffrey Hartman, and Terry Wright’s use of Midrash as a way to set out a methodology for reading contemporary fictions by Marilynne Robinson, Denis Johnson, Tim Winton and J. M. Coetzee in conjunction with the Gospel narratives. I show how they misread and rewrite the biblical text, explore the way in which they approximate Jesus’s teachings about forgiveness, love, grace, and hope, and how such misreadings allow for a fresh appreciation of the Bible. In the Introduction I show how Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth is a contemporary example of a reductive way of reading the Gospels and contrast that with the way the fictional approximations of Jesus misread the biblical narrative. In Chapter One I set out in more detail the parameters of the fictional approximation as a method of misreading that moves towards, but never arrives at, a complete identification with the source. In Chapters Two to Five I show how the fictional approximations of Jesus respond to the Gospel narratives by close-reading Robinson’s Gilead and Home, Johnson’s Angels and Jesus’ Son, Winton’s Cloudstreet, and Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus in parallel with relevant passages from the Bible.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Jesus, Bible, Contemporary Literature, Marilynne Robinson, Denis Johnson, Tim Winton, J.M. Coetzee, Misreading, Heresy, Fictional Approximations, Harold Bloom, Frank Kermode, George Steiner,
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr. John Mark Derbyshire
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2015 13:18
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2015 13:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10732

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