The Biography of Ancient Israel

The Biography of Ancient Israel : National Narratives in the Bible

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Description

The nation - particularly in Exodus and Numbers - is not an abstract concept but rather a grand character whose history is fleshed out with remarkable literary power. In her innovative exploration of national imagination in the Bible, Pardes highlights the textual manifestations of the metaphor, the many anthropomorphisms by which a collective character named 'Israel' springs to life. She explores the representation of communal motives, hidden desires, collective anxieties, the drama and suspense embedded in each phase of the nation's life: from birth in exile, to suckling in the wilderness, to a long process of maturation that has no definite end. In the Bible, Pardes suggests, history and literature go hand in hand more explicitly than in modern historiography, which is why the Bible serves as a paradigmatic case for examining the narrative base of national constructions. Pardes calls for a consideration of the Bible's penetrating renditions of national ambivalence. She reads the rebellious conduct of the nation against the grain, probing the murmurings of the people, foregrounding their critique of the official line.
The Bible does not provide a homogeneous account of nation formation, according to Pardes, but rather reveals points of tension between different perceptions of the nation's history and destiny. This fresh and beautifully rendered portrayal of the history of ancient Israel will be of vital interest to anyone interested in the Bible, in the interrelations of literature and history, in nationhood, in feminist thought, and in psychoanalysis.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 133 x 205 x 15mm | 272g
  • Berkerley, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed
  • notes, bibliography, index
  • 0520236866
  • 9780520236868
  • 1,706,902

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"Pardes has a remarkable gift for asking new questions about familiar texts and providing fresh insights into old problems. By looking closely at the key metaphors and the narrative details of the biblical story of the formation of the Israelite nation, she has teased out of the text a compelling biography."--Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

"Ilana Pardes elegantly recasts the mythic story of Israel's emergence as the story of the birth, individuation, initiation, and maturity of an emergent subject. Ambivalences, deferrals, power struggles, and multiple memories all characterize Israel's development and the stories told about it. Through a set of close and graceful readings, Pardes persuasively argues that the first five books of the Bible constitute, not the history, but the biography of a nation." --Elizabeth A. Castelli, Barnard College, author of Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power

"The book of books has generated many other works, but Ilana Pardes's The Biography of Ancient Israel is in a class by itself. In beautiful, spare prose, she reconstructs the way the biblical authors imagined the history of ancient Israel. Artfully weaving literary and psychological insights, she has given us an entirely fresh view of the Bible as original as it is brilliant. This is a book for every reader of the Bible who wishes 'to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it.'"--David Biale, author of Eros and the Jews

"This is a wonderful book and a delight to read. The idea of treating the exodus story as a collective biography is quite original, and makes possible a genuinely illuminating reading of the story."--Michael Walzer, author of Exodus and Revolution
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Back cover copy

Pardes has a remarkable gift for asking new questions about familiar texts and providing fresh insights into old problems. By looking closely at the key metaphors and the narrative details of the biblical story of the formation of the Israelite nation, she has teased out of the text a compelling biography.--Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley

Ilana Pardes elegantly recasts the mythic story of Israel's emergence as the story of the birth, individuation, initiation, and maturity of an emergent subject. Ambivalences, deferrals, power struggles, and multiple memories all characterize Israel's development and the stories told about it. Through a set of close and graceful readings, Pardes persuasively argues that the first five books of the Bible constitute, not the history, but the biography of a nation. --Elizabeth A. Castelli, Barnard College, author of Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power

The book of books has generated many other works, but Ilana Pardes's The Biography of Ancient Israel is in a class by itself. In beautiful, spare prose, she reconstructs the way the biblical authors imagined the history of ancient Israel. Artfully weaving literary and psychological insights, she has given us an entirely fresh view of the Bible as original as it is brilliant. This is a book for every reader of the Bible who wishes 'to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it.'--David Biale, author of Eros and the Jews

This is a wonderful book and a delight to read. The idea of treating the exodus story as a collective biography is quite original, and makes possible a genuinely illuminating reading of the story.--Michael Walzer, author of Exodus and Revolution
show more

Table of contents

Acknowledgments 1. Introduction: Split Conception 2. Imagining the Birth of a Nation 3. Suckling in the Wilderness: The Absent Mother 4. At the Foot of Mount Sinai: National Rites of Initiation 5. The Spies in the Land of the Giants: Restless Youth 6. Crossing the Threshold: In the Plains of Moab 7. Epilogue: Mount Nebo Notes Bibliography Index
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Review quote

"A creative reading of the text emerges that helps explain its continual power to shape individual and communal identities far beyond its historical and geographic origins.... A wonderfully written book." - Choice
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About Ilana Pardes

Ilana Pardes is an Professor of Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the author of Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach (1992).
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Rating details

11 ratings
3.64 out of 5 stars
5 27% (3)
4 27% (3)
3 36% (4)
2 0% (0)
1 9% (1)
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