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Ben Miller -Biblical Foundations of Literature - English 240
Friday, 11 December 2009
term paper, scroll down for review notes for final

Ben Miller

Term Paper

Bible as Lit.

Dr. Sexson


What I Know Now That I Didn’t Before


What Difference It Make

Intro: The Traditional Vs. Critical Approach To The Bible

            The biggest thing I know now that I didn’t before is that the Bible is not only a religious text, it is simple literature, literally and letterally a text with pages and words that tell stories and images.  Why didn’t I think about that before?  Most likely I didn’t because I was intimidated by the faith and spirituality force people presume the Bible emits, a sort of aura.  However, for me, the aura the Bible emits is not the traditional faith based, but the critical criticism, literary aura – one of immense curiosity, and growing curiouser and curiouser by the minute.  And the biggest, apocalyptic difference this makes is the beginning of a new attitude, a metanoia, “an enlarged vision of human life” (Frye, 130).  Rather than intimidated, I’m now motivated and inspired to experience this enlarged vision, to read, interpret and discover what the Bible has to offer in words, narratives, and images.  Not to mention, I also have an entire new set of stories to read, err reread. ;-)

            Before I took this class, and intensely before college, I was an ignorant fool towards the Bible, and kind of on purpose too.  Although I was intimidated by the Bible, the church, and the force of faith, I honestly was also somewhat disgusted at how gullible devout churchgoers and fundamentalists can be, not to mention rich, wealthy, and therefore greedy.  But now I even feel that’s a bit harsh.  For many people the Bible provides support and answers for those uneasy, scary questions and thoughts about life, death, and what happens afterwards.  Yet for me the Bible will remain ‘ta biblia,’ the little books (Frye xii), books to be read literarily, for the stories and mental pictures.

            With that personal history out of the way, this paper shall charge headlong into the critical aura of the Bible.  With the help of Northrop Frye, both from his book The Great Code and a little from Anatomy of Criticism, David, Plotz’s The Good Book, some quick references to Isaac Beshevis Singer’s novel The Slave, and some other brief glances of worldly literature, of course including the Bible, I want to discuss and investigate the Documentary Hypothesis; the prevalence and importance of typology in the Bible and literature; some fantastic new vocabulary words I’ve been introduced to; stages, levels, and modes of literature with emphasis on the Bible as an anagogic text; and finally, a short reflection on some of the amazing stories, images, and characters I’ve enjoyed in the bible as inspirational, motivating, passionate, didactic, surprising and downright entertaining.  Hold on, it’s going to be a wild ride.

 The Documentary Hypothesis: The Little Writers

            If ‘ta bibla’ means ‘little books,’ then the Bible also has many little writers, according to the Documentary Hypothesis.  Although I’d heard of, and slightly understood, the Documentary Hypothesis, it wasn’t until discussions in this class and my slow, personal encounters with the Bible – with the help of Plotz – that I realized, “wow, this is a great hypothesis!” 

            As I was reading Plotz I noticed he kept commenting on the various attitudes, almost entirely different personas, of God; how in one book He can be a sympathetic, benevolent God, and then in the next book He’s an enraged, furious, and brutal God.  Of course God’s mood will fluctuate depending on the behavior of His chosen people, but numerous times good things seem to happen to bad people and bad things to the good.  What these different personas of God depict, and what the Documentary Hypothesis supports, is that these various writers of ta bibla, especially in the Torah, interpret and explain God’s actions in massively different ways.  In that sense the entire Bible, the Old and New Testament and the Apocrypha, is a timeline of books that reveal each generation’s interpretation of God, His actions, and the Bible.


            Before this class I recall being vaguely familiar with typology but mainly in the simple sense of classifying symbols and types.  With the help of Frye I’ve come to a completely revived, clearer, complex understanding of typology, especially as it pertains to the bible.  Fyre says it best in The Great Code, “Typology is a figure of speech that moves in time: the type exists in the past and the antitype in the future. What typology really is as a mode of thought, what it both assumes and leads to, is a theory of history, or more accurately of historical processes;” (80-81).  The clichés, ‘history repeats itself’ and ‘if it happened before, it’ll happen again,’ briefly come to mind but they come nowhere near exemplifying the typology Frye is explaining. 

            What I’m slowly starting to grasp is Frye’s discussion of typology versus causality.  Thus far I’m on track with the reverse order of causality compared to typology.  Causality moves backwards, whereas typology moves forward.  With causality thinking, the immediate depiction of what’s in front of us (the effect) forces us to think about where it came from (the cause).  And as Frye says, “typology might in fact be thought of as an analogy of causality.” (81).  Typology analyzes the cause as the type and the effect as the antitype, as far as the movement in time is concerned.  Frye takes this a step further by acknowledging that “Causality, however, is based on reason, observation, and knowledge,” whereas “Typology relates to the future, and is consequently related primarily to faith hope and vision” (82).  Perhaps it could be said then, that typology correlates with prudential wisdom and causality with skeptical wisdom but that may be a stretch. 

            When Frye introduces his seven phases in the “sequence or progression” of the journey of revelation the Bible takes a reader through, he remarks, “Each phase is not an improvement on its predecessor but a wider perspective on it.” (106) Although he didn’t directly say this when he introduces typology earlier in the book, I believe this wider perspective is essential to understand the notion of typology Frye is suggesting.  The antitypes of types are not necessarily exact reproductions or reproductions meant to be better or worse than the former; what antitypes do is present a different, wider perspective of similar contexts, conflicts, and images.      

            One other major work of literature I want to briefly mention in terms of typology is Cervantes’ epic novel Don Quixote. The knight-errant in question relies heavily on typology. From his acute reading and faith in books of chivalry and knight-errantry, Sir Don Quixote believes it’s entirely possible to take up the lifestyle once again.  And he believes this so entirely he even convinces a neighbor peasant to play along.  From the types in the books he reads, Don Quixote creates his own real life antitypes, albeit with incredibly comical, ironical twists even Don Quixote couldn’t predict.  Cervantes, in masterful fashion, extends the typology even further with a second half of Don Quixote’s adventures.  These become anti-antitypes of the antitypes from the first half, which were already antitypes of the types DQ read in his extensive knightly literature.  In essence, in a way, Cervantes has parodied the structure of the bible with an old and new half that displays types and antitypes throughout the entire novel.  And the antitypes in the second half become so outrageous and comical (the Cave of Montesinos, the puppet show, and the wooden horse are the best scenes) there’s no way to not feel some sort of sympathy for Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, who have both become so immersed in these types, antitypes, images and stories that the people in the novel start taking advantage of them – they too start becoming characters and tensions in the novel themselves.        

Exquisite Vocabulary Words

            Throughout this semester a number of vocabulary words have been introduced, some I’ve heard before – in other Sexson classes – and others that I haven’t until now. As Frye discusses the hieroglyphic, metaphoric phase of language he quickly mentions the word kairos, “which came to mean a crucial moment in time, originally meant the notch of an arrow.”  These kinds of definitions mesmerize me.  Kairos, in contemporary terms, relates to an important period in time or history when something, usually some mode or shift of thought, changes preconceived notions or reinvigorates them and does so quickly and swiftly.  When the word originated it related to ‘the notch of an arrow,’ to survival and how necessary it was for that notch to be whittled well, in order for that split-second decision to shoot prey to be successful. In that sense, kairos held both definitions valid simultaneously: the crucial moment to release the arrow notched nicely, smoothly, and powerfully in the bow – a vivid, spectacular image of survival.

            It’s not surprising that Frye includes an explanation of “vanity,” or “hebel” in the Wisdom phase.  This definition of vanity was new to me, as was hebel, and I was captivated by it. 

This word (hebel) has a metaphorical kernel of fog, mist, or vapor, a metaphor that recurs in the New Testament (James 4:14.) It thus acquires a derived sense of “emptiness,” the root meaning of Vulgate’s vanitas. To put Koheleth’s central intuition into the form of its essential paradox: all things are full of emptiness.

            We should not apply a ready-made disapproving moral ambiance to this word “vanity,” much less associate it with conceit.  It is a conception more like the shunyata or “void” of Buddhist thought: the world as everything within nothingness. As nothing is certain or permanent in the world, nothing either real or unreal, the secret of wisdom is detachment without withdrawal.   (Frye 123)

I could quote Frye all day, but then I wouldn’t get to say much. However, as I read Frye, any book by Frye, an overwhelming, “unseen power, floats though unseen,” a power or sense of anamnesis. The words and sequences Fyre arranges them in sound far away yet so close, as if I remember them from another life, heard them in my unconscious mumbling muses as a child; or as if Frye’s words and language are exactly how I would describe the same material, only I’ve forgotten it all and Frye wakes me from a dream, begins my recollection. 

            The idea of everything as empty at first sounds really pessimistic.  But if vain instills the sense of emptiness, fog, mist, a breath it merely becomes up to us to discover the value and power of such a correlation.  In a sense this suggest than a breath, an oxygen, life giving breath is vain, empty, nothing. Yet it’s everything, it keeps us alive, moving, thinking, loving, worrying, and laughing.  That vain breath is the most powerful, amazing emptiness there can be, and so it’s everything.

 The Bible As Anagogy

            For this section I’m going to shift Frye books.  In Anatomy of Criticism, Frye dissects the phases of language he discusses in The Great Code in far greater detail with more divisions. The basic hierarchy in the two books is similar, but far more complex in Anatomy with literature falling into modes of myth, romance, high mimetic, low-mimetic, and chaos.  These are further discussed in terms of Tragedy, Comedy and Thematic modes. It gets more complex as Fyre begins to describe and associate symbols with these phases or modes of literature; the phases and symbols correspond roughly with the modes up above, the anagogic phase with symbol as monad, the mythical phase with symbol as archetype, the formal phase with symbol as image, the descriptive phase with symbol as sign, and the literal phase with symbol as motif. 

            Where the Bible fits in to all this is at the top level, the myths, anagogy, and monads. Fyre explains that in the archetypal phase the dream or boundary is limited.  This is not the case in anagogy.  “In the anagogic phase, literature imitates the total dream of man, and so imitates the thought of a human mind which is at the circumference and not the center of its reality”… “nature becomes not the container, but the thing contained,” … “This is not reality, but it is the conceivable or imaginative limit of desire, which is infinite, eternal, and hence apocalyptic.” (119 , the Woo-Woo page).

            The Bible exemplifies the phase of anagogy more than any other text I can think of – though Don Quixote is close in my opinion.  In Genesis, it is directly stated that nature is created and thus contained within the structure of the text and surreality it creates.  The Bible is also a text that revolves at the circumference of reality, the ultimate dream that man is created, influenced, and manipulated by the ultimate God; it’s nowhere near the center of reality which allows us to watch the snow fall, sipping a cup of tea and pondering on the wonders of the Bible and anagogy.  Yet both are the ultimate way to spend our time, reading and criticizing the bible.               

 Boisterous Biblical Characters

            I decided to add this section at the last minute because I feel I haven’t actually discussed the content of the Bible enough for a Biblical term paper.  What really struck me about reading the Bible and Plotz was how passionate, vivid and influential the characters, and stories and images for that matter, can be.  Whether they’re depicted as essentially good or bad characters, they embody the role to the fullest extent, especially God and Satan. 

            In the Book Of Acts, after making our movie and becoming quite familiar with the text, I was quite amazed at the persistence and passion of the apostles to spread the story of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Numerous times the apostles are beaten, stoned, banished and even imprisoned for their actions.  Yet they always remain faithful, dedicated and passionate to their purpose, something that cannot be said of a lot of people. 

            The women in the bible are also amazing, which Lynda Sexson really helped us realize.  Biblical women are certainly not prostitutes, as Plotz believes, but intelligent, wise, sometimes tricky women who know exactly what they’re doing.  Take for instance Lot’s daughters.  These women might surely be thought of as incestuous harlots at first, but they have a reason for their actions.  They know the only way for their father’s lineage to remain strong is for him to have an heir, and as there are no other women around, and limited time since Lot is getting older, his daughters take matters into their own hands.  Using the old ‘get ‘em drunk and take advantage of him’ trick, Lot’s daughters have done the only thing possible to keep their father’s lineage strong, the most loyal, benevolent gift a daughter could do for her father. 

            Lastly I want to say that I was also amazed with Plotz’s passion for reading the bible and writing about the Bible.  His attention to detail and insightful anecdotes were always a joy to read and ponder.       

 Final Thoughts

            I am completely, one hundred percent thankful that I took this class.  The metanoia I’ve cultivated throughout the semester is one I knew was possible but needed the necessary assistance to really complete the transformation.  I still have a lot of reading, thinking, and criticizing to do in terms of the Bible and Frye, but if it weren’t for this class I wouldn’t know where to begin.

Works Cited

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Frye, Northrop. The Great Code. Florida: Harcourt, Inc., 1983.


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Thursday, 10 December 2009
class notes 12/10/09

Class notes 12/10/09

Final term paper presentation

--Jean—The faith of Job, she was taught the Book of Job as a book of patience, but she now recognizes his faith as his strength to endure his suffering.  Her own battle with cancer and a brain tumor;  -Oswald Chamber’s Summary: Job teaches us how to suffer; Psalms teach us how to pray; Proverbs, how to act; Ecclesiastes, how to enjoy; Song of Solomon, how to love. – Themes and Lessons, sovereignty, confrontation, faithful, and more.  Great presentation.

--Eirc—a caravan of interesting things; National Geographic Channel special on Cain and Abel.  Many religions derive different concepts, versions, attachments to the story, the ravens.  The Borne Identity movie series as a displacement of Cain and Abel; Prudential Wisdom; Skeptical wisdom, movie Crash; The Book Of Job, suffering, movie, Me and You and Everything We Know.

--Natalie—Suffering and The Book Of Job, Quote from Dr. Sexson, “…suffer, suffer into the truth.”  The experience of suffering, isolated and lonely, uncomfortable, questioning.  Job and Jacob questioning suffering.  Job’s question lead to nowhere, his realization his suffering can’t be answered. Suffering allows us to be connected to a greater whole, everyone suffers, or eventually will.  Ending on a personal note, the story of the final hike with her dad. What had started a normal day turned into an extraordinary story; Awesome final quote from father’s mirror. Thanks for sharing Natalie.

-- Abby-- Pictures of reciting bible and given present for doing so.  She’s grown up with the bible but never asked whether it’s true, and now know that it doesn’t matter.  Combining her traditional and critical view towards the bible. Quotes from Frye, pg. 49, 50.  The Slave, 296, suspicion and mockery, doubting the bible but still believing. Apply experience to beliefs, rather than belief to experiences .

--Nick—The book of Ecclesiastes. Life as one big joke.  Life is pointless, enjoy it, but that’s hard, because of the like of you people.  Should we kill ourselves or not? Movie, the hoax, words by Allen Watts, animation by the south park guys; the music and the journey as the most important. We take life too seriously sometimes.


Final Exam Notes and Review

-Plotz’s final remark, ‘Yes the Bible is definitely worth reading.’

-Shakespeare, read him, The Tempest, “We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” As You Like It,

-The Perfect Day, today, Dec. 10, 2009.  Perfection is wherever you happen to be at that moment in time.

-The sacred mountain is wherever you happen to be, Montana, Colorado, Reid Hall


Final Exam -50 points, 25 question

Books- The Book of Jonah

            -Song of Solomon



Blogs on other two group projects

            -Acts and 1st and 2nd Samuel.


-Final chapter of Frye

            Pg. 49 and 50.

            Pg. 206, 209, 210, 212, 214, 217, 218, 230, 231-232, 233



            description of the bible, a mosaic,


            Parallelism, the balancing of one thing and another.  “The unit of Biblical verse is parallelism. A wonderful dialogic rhythm. 


            Asses and colts, in the quote from Zechariah, there weren’t two different animals, it’s poetic, there is only one animal


            Lions, monkeys and the notion of authority, law, quantifying


            The bible is a book! The authority of a book. John 8, Jesus writing on the ground with his finger. Metaphysics,


            Frye on education, the purpose of the educator is to take his sheep and move them from where they are to another place, two musician, craftsman, but there’s music greater than that, Bach or Mozart, but then the sense of listening to ‘the voice of music itself.’ Humor Dr. Sexson, go out and listen to Bach. 


            Elijah’s epiphany of hearing the still small voice


            The last passage in the Book of Jonah; Jamie’s blog, the question of faith and doubt and our relationship with the bible; the little of ladies, they’re always there. Her overwhelming urge to interrupt the preacher.  

Frye, faith has its dialectical opposite; doubt is the complement of faith.

-The final anagogic level of meaning, the highest level of interpretation of a text.  Mystical response.  The question of death, how do we deal with it.

Nabokov and death, on his own deathbed. The experience as a new language, something is happening.   


            The big quote, begins “Wherever we have love, …” “It is only through the study of works of human imagination that we can make any real contact with the level of vision beyond faith.”



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Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Gotta Share This; Survey Story

As I was finishing up a snack in the basement of the sub a young man walked up and asked if I would like to participate in a survey.  Now, I was one step ahead.  The other day I overheard a young woman giving a survey to someone about religion, sin, and the bible. This afternoon was my turn.


This young man was very friendly, respectful, and passionate about what he was doing and so I was more than willing to help him with his survey. He told me he was from Montana Bible College, ‘right across the street,’ working on a final project.  The first question, “Do you believe humans were created or are a product of evolution? My quick answer, “Evolution.” I immediately saw his hand start to tremble as he wrote down my response.  He now knew he was dealing with someone who did not live biblically, and was proud of it. But he kept charging on to the next question, which I was impressed with.  He asked me a number of questions about sin, “do I believe all humans sin?” “Yes.”  “Do I believe some sins are worse than others?” “Yes.” In a way I was even surprised with my answers sometimes.  I figured he meant sin in the context of the bible, but I answered to sin in a critical, literary context, a context more relaxed, less authoritative. I would define this critical sin similarly to traditional sin but without the reference to faith or the bible, simply an immoral act. He also asked, “Do you believe there is a consequence for sin?” And I said, after a quick pause, “Yes, a sort of karma consequence, what goes around come around.” He nodded a couple times and jotted down my answer.


His next questions turned to the topic of salvation.  He asked, “Do I believe humans need to achieve salvation.” Again, I answered quickly, “No.”  This shook him up a bit, his hand started trembling bad and as he read the next question, he answered it for me, “uh, this would have to be no, since you answered no to the first salvation question. Okay.” His last question was, “Do people need God?” to which I paused, thought about it for a minute, and said, “Yes, some people need God and faith. It answers those hard, scary questions that people are often afraid to ponder.” And I think he liked that answer. He wrote it down and nodded his head a few times. 


Then he asked me if I’d like to hear what he thought of sin, salvation and the bible. And I knew where he was going with this before he started, he was going to give me a mini sermon. But I wanted to hear it. He kind of got all excited, too, when I said I’d listen. He sat up and forward in his chair and started rattling off the typical, traditional belief the bible instills for Christians, ‘Jesus died on the cross for all of man’s sins and so we’re able to live a sin free life, and so on.’ Now that I think about it he did a really good job describing his belief and approach to the bible. However, it was after we finished his survey that the conversation got juicy.


He asked me if I had any questions, to which I said, “Yeah, now you’re a Christian?” “Yes,” he replied. “And, so what I’m curious about is how much of the bible you read and live by, only the New Testament?” (I asked this because I really was curious, and ignorant, as to which denominations of Christianity live by and believe which parts of the bible. He quickly answered, excited, “Oh, the whole thing! The Old and New Testament.” I butted in, “the Apocrypha too?” “Nooo,” he said, “not the Apocrypha.” And of course I asked why, to which he responded, “umm, because I don’t believe it’s inspired, by the Holy Spirit, God.” I thought to myself, ahh yes, the Holy Spirit, as in the Book of Acts. I also thought he was being a little ignorant and prejudice to the Apocrypha but I didn’t bring that up.


Somehow our discussion turned to the author, and authors, of the bible. To my surprise this young man started babbling on about there being multiple authors of the bible. However, he thinks there upwards of 40 authors, which I was surprised to hear.  When he took a breath I butted in and brought up the documentary hypothesis, which he had not heard of.  I told him about how the documentary hypothesis also suggests there are multiple authors of the bible, but not 40 or more, only about 4.  I mentioned how even in the same book in the bible its noticeable there are different writers using prose (J) or lists (P).  He was respectful enough to listen to me but I got the feeling he wasn’t going to think about my view of the bible over his evening prayer.  But he did listen. I mentioned Frye, stages in the bible and typology but I’m sure it went right over his head – as my jabbering did in my term paper presentation for the class. He said he’d never heard of Frye, and after he left I thought to myself how I should have mentioned that Frye was a minister and a literary critic.  Next time. 


And, as the literature nerd I’ve become, halfway through his survey I was thinking to myself, what a coincidence, what irony, I’m currently in a biblical lit class, know a little about ‘the good book,” and can have a lively discussion with someone about the bible who has wildly different beliefs towards it that I.  Wow, I better blog about this, asap!    








Posted by bmcycleski at 8:32 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 9 December 2009 8:33 PM EST
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Tuesday, 8 December 2009
class notes 12/8/09

Class notes: 12-8-2009


-- Ryan -- Fears about reading the bible, three personal instances of dealing with contradictory interpretations of the bible, new view of apocalypse.

--Amanda—sexual content in the bible, PowerPoint presentation with quotes from The Slave, The Good Book, quotes from the bible: Lot and his daughters, women’s cleanliness or uncleanliness; Song of Solomon; The Bible and Sex go hand in hand.

--Lisette—What she knows now that she didn’t before; Pslam    ; Dr. Sexson as the Sheppard, us students as the Sheep.  Henry David Thoreau poem about sheep, sheep the most prize possessions.  Lisette as a Sheppard with sheep at bible camp.  Short movie about the camp, experience; sprouting flowers – perfect metaphor.  Reading all the blogs.

--Fletcher—parallels between biblical Jacob and Jacob from The Slave: seven years of imprisonment, raised to a scholar; Held Singer’s Jacob on higher level, Biblical Jacob not so much, at first; Stealing back Wanda and his son; not holding his actions against him; giving birth to a son, Benjamin, both women converting; always the same Jacob, always the same Sarach

--Chris—the parabola vs. the wave; the narrative structure of the Jacob’s struggles with remaining faithful to the bible and following natural instincts. A constant struggle with ups and downs.  “For all of us, to find that inner peace, is a constant struggle, up and down, until death.” The Rollercoaster of life ~~~~

--Rachael—The Slave and it’s retelling of Joseph Campbell’s mono myth; 17 steps and 13 in Jacob’s travels.  Dream of pregnant Wanda is the first step, the call to adventure; Supernatural helpers, God and the strange man in a white robe and brown boots, Sarah as a supernatural aide; the fairy man and emissary as aides too; the final step, return to reclaim Sarah’s bones and body, Campbell’s notion of free to live, accepting death, a peaceful transformation. 

--Read “The Hero With a Thousand Faces;” separation, initiation, return, U;

--Ty—How did people live so damn long; it’s metaphorical, kind of depressing; Myths in news, journalism, beat reporting, New Journalism; Frye, “Myth I” the sun-myth, history of Napoleon; “In Cold Blood,” by Truman Capote. Literary analysis of “In Cold Blood;” Three categories: Rhetoric, kerygma, essay by Tom Wolf; Symbols and Archetypes, building the narrative, the story, symbol of the bragger soldier; third, narrative form. Complicated, dense, and valuable.

--Amanda—PowerPoint with pictures; suffering in the bible and real life with direct reference to Natalie and Lisette. Bible suffering, The Slave Suffering, and The suffering of Natalie and Lisette. “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” Suffering and love, directly parallel, the two strongest emotions. Natalie’s loss of her father on a mountain, Jacob enslaved on a mountain; Lisette’s wise comment to take things “day by day.”

--Eric—his peculiar way of writing on fragments and then piecing things together.  Questioning God.  Is Jacob really a slave?  Absolutely, and mostly to himself.  The next question; Am I a slave?  Yes because of our own consciousness.  In the corridor of life.  Why does God torture Jacob?  “The importance of creation, free will.” How can Jacob even withstand what God is doing to him?  It’s his faith.  Video, ‘the secret to life; one thing; you gotta figure out.” Transcending the corridor, faith.

--“Purity of Heart Is To Will One Thing,” Kierkegaard.

-- Tristan-- Dr. Sexson’s voice ringing in his head, the bible influences 50% of literature. Rastafarianism; the bible, music, poetry how we express ourselves and life.  The lyrics in “Sinner Man” and the bible.  Johnny Cash’s “Man Comes Around,” Revelation 6.1, the voice of thunder vs. the voice of God.  A

--Derrick—Fascination with Job, similar to William Blake. The play or drama of Job; most bible stories have so much lacuna there’s no way to act them out, not so in The book of Job; exceptionally complex characters, Job, Satan, God; Satan’s practical jokes on Job.  Job was on par with Greek tragedies.

--Rio—novella, a peppering of things he’s taken from the class and school; classical music, similar transformation with the bible and vocab from this class, metanoia, apocalypse; The novella uses dreams and flashback to share his experiences.  The ignorance we hold to high-brow and elitists, and then we lean to love it.

--Jamie—Soul recycling, evolution of faith, ideas and beliefs evolving throughout faith.  First, blind faith, abiding strictly by the laws of the bible; second, teaching faith, Wanda’s questions and Jacobs answers and revelations.  Third, questioning faith, the more Jacob leans about his religion the more he questions; the final return to, not blind faith, tranquil faith.  Image of light bulb with misshaped circle of arrows; the coil light bulb. 

--Alesha—Esther, the story repeated over and over again; To Kill a Mockingbird; Atticus Finch and Esther, modest; Esther and Randal McMurphy; Esther and Esmerelda; Esther and Sarah, strongest correlation, converting and hiding faith. Only showed a few examples, hard to pick four since there are thousands to choose from. 

--Jesse—Biblical heroes and villains; selective salvation, God choosing people, Esau and Jacob; Sarah and Rebecca, vindictive powerful women.  Jesse’s identification of Esau as a literary critic.


-Mandatory attendance on Thursday!  The last few presentations and review for the final exam.  Final, Friday 2 p.m.


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Thursday, 3 December 2009
Class notes 12/3/09

12/3/09 – less than a month before 2010!

-Term Paper Presentation Day!

-Final Exam, Friday at 2 p.m.

-Take a look at the blogs! The primary focus of the final exam.

-The Last chapter of Frye, and the books of the presentations – as well as the presentations.


--Karen- On “The Slave” Jacob as a slave to his religion.  Jacob’s branded with his religion as a cow’s branded with their owner’s mark.  Killing the mood, forcing Wando to bath in a freezing stream before they have sex.  Jacob’s suffering similar to Job, but Jacob doesn’t complain as much.

--Ashley- A short movie clip, from TV show Firefly, the bible’s broken, it doesn’t make sense, but you can’t fix the bible, it fixes you through faith.  The enormous influence of the bible on our culture; no matter what happens, in 2012, the next 100 years, whatever, the bible will always be around, always an influence.  The archetype of a quiet leader; the bible as an immensely important part of social construction

--Thomas- what he didn’t know before that he does now.  Quote from Frye about challenging positions.  Great use of slides and quote to aid presentation.  Cain and Abel, one of Thomas’s favorite stories of the bible. Ecclesiastes, Book of Job, story of Lazarus, interesting and disappointing, he’s raised from the dead then disappears, with no explanation, perhaps removed by some redactor. The Bible challenges questions, positions, and forces us to think.

--Jenna- What she knows now that she didn’t before.  She sent most of her life avoiding the bible, which she’s now conquered.  No one’s actually ever seen god, as they say they sometimes do.  The multitudes of creation stories, stories rather than rules.  Baptism confusion, what’s really involved, a metaphorical death and resurrection.  Armageddon, the last battle between good and evil. References to the bible from Thoreau.  Jews don’t always think that God is always around, interesting.  Don’t be afraid of the bible, sit down and open the page.

--Chris- The Slave and the Bible; Jacob and Wanda, Jacob and Sarah; Jacob’s realization of his own namesake.  Chris didn’t like Wanda’s transformation into Sarah, it ruined the character of Wanda.  Jacob’s ability to question God, his ability to really seem human.

--Dr. Sexson—We’re all in stories, we merely need to discover what story we’re in.

--Craig—What he learned and the difference it makes.  The discussion of the wisdom books; Ecclesiastes, all is vanity, pointless.  The definition of wisdom, awareness, Socrates is wise because he is aware that he doesn’t know everything.  Emerson’s “American Scholar,” we are what we do.  “Me” by Mel Thompson, the concept of self, me;  We can’t really know everything; his personal philosophy of Continuous Constant Change, we must accept it.

--Alex—What he know now that he didn’t before and the difference it makes. Also intimidated by the bible, but now loves it as the fundamental foundation of western thought.  A new respect in its metaphorical and historical context, the power of logos in the age of chaos.  The craziness of God inflicting genocide; God loving conflict.  Fiddler On The Roof Quote, “I know we’re you’re chosen people but could you choose someone else.”  Exclusive Monarchy, not necessarily an evil or wrong, even though there are evil acts involved with it. Narratives reinforce our identities metaphorically. 

--Dr. Sexson—The Shadows on The Hudson, “It is better to believe that God does not exist that to believe there is a god that lets happen what happen in the Holocaust.”

--Shelby— ? The question of vanity, the deep sense of despair, dealing with it; awesome use of simple illustrations; the many traditions to approach the bible, but we can read it literally for the mental apocalypse. Jacob and anamnesis, his acceptance.  The idea of all the different paths the bible offers.

--Melissa—women in the bible, Virginia Wolf quote; Women as the key players in the bible, the pushers of the stories. The interesting Lacuna of naming lots daughters; The bible has a huge influence on women throughout all of literature. 

--Craig—Why he wrote his paper; watching the history channel, a commercial about 2012, the end of the world according to the Mayans; clip of Patton Oswald, comedian.  ‘In the VIP section of eternity, I dies in the mother-f*@&ing apocalypse.  The words turned to razor blades and sliced their flesh out.  The apocalypse, an awesome, awe inspiring story, life and death, and end and a beginning. 

--Katie—Stories and images, rules, understanding the bile through these stories.  Using the bible to apply these rules to his own life. 

--Kathryn—Started writing on The Slave, then turned to writing about justifying God’s wrath.  Parable in Matthew 20.13-15, men getting paid the same amount no matter how much work they do, God’s salvation for us, even though we probably don’t even deserve that. 

-The last shall be first and the first shall be last.  Flannery O’Connor.                 


Posted by bmcycleski at 2:15 PM EST
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Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Term Paper Thoughts and Acts Summation

            Well since I may have to present my paper in class on Thursday I better give you a heads-up on what’s coming: I have no idea…  Actually I have a slight idea, a very dull flicker of light that just needs a little coaxing to reach full brightness – I hope.  

            Because I already wrote a lengthy bit about “The Slave,” I’m thinking I’m going to take this paper in a different direction.  In all of the classes I‘ve taken with Dr. Sexson, I haven’t wrote my term paper on the ‘what I didn’t know before that I know now’ topic – I can’t remember whether the second part of that topic, ‘and what difference does it make’ has always been there, but I definitely think it’s an important second bit of criteria.  Every time Dr. Sexson mentions this option I think, “yeah, I want to write on that topic, that’s a great idea for a topic.” So this time I’m going to write on that, what I didn’t know before that I know now, and what difference does it make. 

            I’ve been pondering many ideas and things to write about in my paper, a lot about Frye, typology, classes, levels, and stages in literature and especially the bible.  I also expect this paper to get a bit personal, reveal a few bits about myself and encounters with the bible and church; how I felt then versus how I feel now.  Although I certainly will not accomplish the one main assignment of this class, ‘read the entire bible,’ I have so much more biblical lit under my belt than I did before this class that I could write an entire paper on merely the titles and summaries of great biblical narratives that I had never read before. (I try fairly hard, probably too hard sometimes, to not use the word ‘just’ now, thanks Dr. Sexson.  It’s really hard, j*$# as hard as not saying like, like ever other like word.  Word.  But there aren’t that many other words to use instead of ‘just.’  Many times I can replace it with ‘merely,’ or ‘only,’ but sometimes those just don’t sound right ;) what’s a guy to do?)


            I was really excited to see our Acts movie come to life on the big screen in class today.  After struggling like a short kid reaching for something on a tall shelf – which happens to me a lot too – on the first movie I did for literary criticism, I had a much better idea of how to approach this one.  This go around went a lot smoother and I think the final product turned out great. 

            Acts was a really tricky book to tackle.  As Dr. Sexson mentioned, there is a ton of stuff that happens in Acts, miracles, voyages, thousands of sermons, some death and persecution, natural disasters and phenomena and so much more!  Before I open he bible for some references, in my own words, the book of The Acts of The Apostles is about all the acts, events, and ordeals the apostles go through to spread the word of Jesus Christ.  The Lord gives the “Holy Spirit” to the apostles, which enables them to do miracles, heal the sick, revive the dead, give blind people their sight back, heal crippled beggars so they can walk again.  And of course, when the apostles display these miracles and inform the witnesses that they happened because they have faith in the Holy Spirit and the lord Jesus Christ, people believe them, and convert.  I’d probably believe them too, especially if they performed a miracle on me.  Along with all these miracles the apostles give very convincing sermons wherever they go, survive horrific circumstances both physically and mentally, expose sacrilegious corrupted people, and always remain completely faithful to the Holy Spirit. They’re really quite amazing guys when I think about it.

            A few pages after Acts begins, in the footnotes is a brief explanation or table about more or less what’s going on in Acts.  And I just realized that we cut-off one of the most important lines of the book, and it was my bad.  In Acts 1.8 Jesus says, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  And that’s what happens: The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit, which gives them the power to perform miracles, and then they go preach in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth as the Lords witnesses and messengers, imploring people to join them and receive the Holy Spirit, be loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ.  During the course of spreading the word of Jesus Christ, many strange and wondrous things happen to the Apostles, and if you would like to know more, go read your bible.                        

Posted by bmcycleski at 12:10 AM EST
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Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Class notes: Dec. 1st 2009, FRESH SNOW!!

Final exam is Friday, not this week, final’s week, 2 p.m.

-Final three group presentations-

            -Song of Solomon




-Group 4: Song of Solomon:

Sock puppet show

Forth graders in sexual education class


“tummy of wheat!”

Principal Solomon – 1000 wives, purely physical

Turning up the heat on Lucy’ burner in biology

“Faith” or “faint” with love

“Stately like the monkey bars and breasts like the rungs

Great performance, hilarious, informative,

The extended metaphor or allegory of the song of Solomon as Jesus’ love for the church and or God’s love for his people; but it’s still erotic poetry!! 


-Group 5- Acts Movie –I’m going to post it on YouTube eventually.  


-Group 6-Jonah: In The Guts of the Wall

-The F writer, for Fish

-Live Performance

-God’s incredibly long beard.

Holy Buddha! Lord Jesus Christ, Who’s that? I don’t know yet!

A real heart to heart, you spend three days inside someone and you get to know ‘em.

-Combination of Lot’s suffering incorporated in Jonah’s suffering.

Great use of photos along with actors and speeches!!

-Jonah becomes a false prophet

A lot of embellishment but great story and script.

-One main point or theme: God is not the fire and brimstone God but sympathetic; however Jonah is furious and a great prophet for the power of his words.

-Moby Dick Chapter 9, sermon by father Maple, -Jonah as a God fugitive!

In the belly of the whale, an initiation tale, transformations,


-Be in class next Thursday for the review for the final exam!!




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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Class notes: 11/24/09

-Group Presentation day!

-Read Amanda Jones’ Blog!


A live performance with video clips;

-missing opra clip, but funny, err horrific, clips of people hit by busses.

-Modern displacements morals, innuendos,

-Final clip of Jesus prancing naked, sings, then WHAM!! Hit by a bus.

-Check Ashley’s blog for more info, summary, and other important Ruth Group apocalyptic knowledge.

-Baby Ruth candies!!


-Character names all have meanings, Ruth=Friend

-Line from Ruth still used in marriages,

-Buss shots: contemporary irony to fill lacunas

-Book of Ruth fulfilling story of lineage from Jesus to Kamar

-Esther Group

-The book of Esther from the imagination of a child.

-Live Performance

-Kids asked gramps to tell stories

-old senile, angry, grandpa 

-Frame narrative set-up, grandpa telling the story while actors act it out – great!

-The inter-noodle is the internet!



-Check Thomas’ blog for script and summary.

-1st and 2nd Samuel

-Rated R for nudity, language, and graphic content! Viewer discretion is advised!!

-The raising up of the Monarchy, Saul, David

-David’s tumultuous reign

-Great book, one of the best of the Old Testament.


-Sock puppet’s, awesome!!

-Derrick’s great falsetto voice!!

-Use of pictures projected as background, helps add context to the sock puppets,

-Sock puppets a great metaphor for god’s people…

-Bathsheba and David scene, erotic, funny,

-Discussion: Absolom’s death, hanging from his hair,

-David putting Bathsheba’s husband in front lines so he’s die

-Davis’s consistency of mourning for his sons


Posted by bmcycleski at 2:18 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 1 December 2009 12:47 PM EST
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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Class notes 11-19-09 INTIMIDATION DAY –Step it up!

Next Tuesday, group presentation by

-Group 1 = Ruth

-Group 2 = Sam

-Group 3 =Esther

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, remaining group presentation

-Group 4 = SOS

-Group 5 = Acts

-Group 6 = Jonah

-The last three days of class will involve our term paper presentation, starting with the end of the alphabet and returning to the beginning.

-Term paper presentation is more a performance, involving eye contact, humor, teaching, and learning; it should be 3-5 minutes long.

-Mandatory attendance on presentation days!!

Blogs to Check Out

-Tai’s blog: the mode of the bible, Kerygma, long form journalism

-Jamie Garrison – The Slave, Jacob’s amazing ability to remain faithful and loyal to his religion

-Chris’ frustration with Jacob’s self-chastisement.

-Check Alex’s site, but be warned, there’s nudity; His great short film about Susanna.   

-Read “Shadows On The Hudson,” By Isaac Beshevis Singer

-In Jewish tradition knowledge is extremely important, unlike politics; Jewish mothers implore their daughters to marry scholars.

-Audio of the Slave, well done, cathartic, moving.  Check out

The Slave – Term Paper ideas; Slaves to a biblical tradition we don’t believe in

-Why is it called The Slave?  -The Ferryman, Waclaw, Don’t get attached to anything, as soon as you do you’re a slave to it, it breaks down, and then we lose it; then we get sad and upset that we’re not slaves anymore.  Where’s the sense in that? (Dr. Sexson great accents)

-The headstone, Jamie’s awesome picture

-Read “Gimpel The Fool,” a short story by Singer

Be Careful with these term paper topics; always return to the theme of the class, the bible as narrative and image, Frye, and The Slave; Don’t let yourself wander too far from the issues of the class!

-Bad day blogs-

            -Erin’s blog

-Jesus’ response to Martha: You are concerned about many things, FFA, Glee Club, Homework; but only one thing is actually of concern. 



Posted by bmcycleski at 2:09 PM EST
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Thursday, 12 November 2009
class notes 11/12; the class before the test!!

Class notes: 11/12/09

-See film Cold Comfort Farm

-Material for test from Frye

            -Page numbers-

            -54: he use of figurative language in the bible; types of figurative language; hyperbole, intentional exaggeration; quote on p.54 from Gospel of John;

            -Jesus’ metaphorical statements.

            -Page 81 -82: anamnesis, recollection; types and antitypes; typology as an analogy of causality

            -The old is to the new as the type is to the antitype

            -82 – repetition; returning to the original pristine state and moving forward.

-Frye Chapter 5

            -Pg. 107; Creation - the patriarchal deity

            -Pg. 116; Exodus; seeing God; the admonition of making graven images

            -Pg. 120; Law; Science develops more readily out of polytheistic religion; Natural Law, regarded as the continuing of the divine creation in time.

            -Pg. 123; Wisdom; Hebel, where vanity derives, metaphorical kernel of fog, vapor, emptiness, worthless; but is a breath, life vain, worthless?  Hmm, interesting

            Pg. 128; Prophecy; wise man vs. prophet, prophet sees man in a state of alienation caused by his own distractions, at the bottom of the U shaped curve. Metanoia, changing the mind.

            -Pg. 130; Gospel; repentance; change of outlook, spiritual metamorphosis, an enlarges vision…

            Pg. 137-8; Apocalypse; Read the Tibetan Book of the Dead; Jonny Deep movie Dead Man.  References to William Blake, Tibetan Book of The Dead

            Pg. 138: best definiton of apocalypse: the way the world looks after the ego disappears, a form a detachment;

-Page Numbers to Read from The Slave

            238, 252- 269, 278-9

Review Questions: For a STUPID TEST; Gee, thanks

Plotz Question

1.     Who is an early Jesus figure in the Old Testament in First Kings: 17?  Elijah.

2.     Who was associated with early makeup and what does it symbolize?  Jezebel, the bad woman.

3.     Answer: The Lion and The Lamb; Question: Which doesn’t belong together?

4.     Who does Plotz compare God to in Isaiah?  Santa Clause and Jack Nicholson.

5.     Why does Plotz think we shouldn’t share a beach house with Jeremiah? He’s incredibly morbid. Pg. 201

6.     Ezekiel, chapter 4, the ingredients for what he’s supposed to eat for the years; breakfast cereal; Chapter 16-17, the metaphor of marriage and Jerusalem.

7.     Why does Jonah get on the boat? To flee from God! 

8.     It ain’t no whale!!

9.     Which biblical character does Plotz talk about the most in Pslams? David.  According to Plotz what is the main theme?  Woe is me!!

10. What other biblical story is the book of Daniel most similar to?  In respet to precognition?  The story of Joseph. 

11. Why does Ezra pull out all his hair, on his head and body?  Ouch?  Inter-marriage between the Jews and Gentiles. 

12. Plotz describes the book of chronicles in one sentence, which is?  It retells the stories you’re already heard.  Repetition.  Repetition. Repetition.  Should we read the bible?  Of course?  The only difficulty, especially for Plotz, is all the violence.  But the less you believe the more you should read. That’s me… All events are biblical! –Alex’s bad morning, getting stuck twice in the snow, but the good Samaritan comes through.

13. The Greek root of Ecclesiastes is ecclesia, which means what?  Gathering.

14. What is eschatology? The study or philosophy of the end times.

15. In Frye, what form of creation does Frye stress?  Logos.  Spoken creation. Logos, blah, blah, blah.

16. Jesus and Socrates;

17. Why is the bible a comedy?  It has a happy ending!!  Prophets

18. What kind of wisdom literature would be espoused by our grandparents? Prudential; know difference between skeptical and prudential wisdom

19.  What did Jacob put on his head at the end of The Slave?  A fez; page 298. 

20. The three great tragedies, according to Dr. Sexson: The Brothers Karamazov; King Lear; The Book of Job.

21. Why is God a patriarchal God?  To rationalize the ethos of a patriarchal system. 

22. What is an epiphany? A sudden manifestation of the divine or supernatural being.

23. What is the doctrine of retributive justice, and name a person who is an example?  Good thing happen to good people, bad things to bad people.  Job’s three friends are examples.

24. Which two Shakespearian characters exhibit prudential and skeptical wisdom?  Polonius and Hamlet; Neither a borrower or a lender be; versus To be or not to Be, that is the question.

25. The best examples of the bible as narrative and imagery.  The book of Job, a supreme narrative; the best example of imagery is Revelation.

26. According to Wikipedia, metanoia

27. What is Moses the archetype for?  The Leader or Hero.

28. What does Jacob do, in The Slave, to make up for the absence of his Torah?  Writes them on a rock, then memorizes them.

29. What is the vindication of divine goodness and providence?  Theodicy = the question of innocent suffering; theo = god, dike justice   

30. What is the definition of a parable?  An attack on the structure of your expectations, according to Dr. Sexson.  The difference between a parable and proverb. 

31. Apocalypse = unveiling. 

32. The difference between literal and realized eschatology?  The end at a specific time, versus the notion that the world’s already come to an end, but we haven’t realized it.  

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