McCarthy and the Bible

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  • 01 Apr 2012 at 10:25 pm #631

    Anonymous

    I read this today:  http://www.thejewishweek.com/features/culture_view/altering_bibles_language.  It specifically mentions Marilynne Robinson, Melville, and McCarthy when it poses the question of knowledge of the bible among secular readers with the implication that they might be disadvantaged when approaching these authors.  I believe Black gets at this a bit in The Sunset Limited and is perhaps a surrogate for McCarthy in that sense.  FWIW, I believe Melville had a better purchase on the biblical/secular razor edge than either McCarthy or Robinson or Faulkner…


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    02 Apr 2012 at 2:48 am #636

    Webmaster
    Keymaster

    From the article:

    But what if some of those worthwhile secular texts — ones by Melville and Faulkner, say, or by Marilynne Robinson and Cormac McCarthy — cannot be fully understood without a genuine knowledge of the Bible? What if reading the Bible isn’t only important, but essential for a full appreciation of certain secular texts?

    The fact that such questions have to be asked is a symptom of something horribly wrong with the West. The Bible is as foundational as it gets to an understanding of Western literature. How does Shakespeare make sense without it? Or Hawthorne? Or Melville? Or even Lincoln?

    Leaving out the Bible is about the same as leaving out, say, Aristotle. If you’re going to be educated, believe it or not, you ought to know what both the Bible and Aristotle say. And how they say it.

    Might be disadvantaged? In my view, anyway, there’s no might be to it.


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    02 Apr 2012 at 7:33 am #638

    aden
    Member

    Couldn’t agree more, Marty. The two main sources of Western civilization are ancient Greece and the Bible. You should know both of them. Like Clem, I don’t get the feeling McCarthy knows the Bible as well as Melville knew it. When it comes to the Greeks, you can see Plato, Sophocles and some Homer, but I don’t see Aristotle in his work. When it comes to his narrative thought patterns, he proceeds by way of Platonic circularity rather than Aristotelian linearity. Considering the King James Bible, Plato and Homer, it seems McCarthy is more in line with Protestant thought than Catholicism, even though his family was Catholic. He must have absorbed it in his early Tennessee surroundings.


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    02 Apr 2012 at 8:04 pm #647

    Richard L.
    Member

    I don’t think you could say that McCarthy hasn’t read Plato, only that he prefers Plato’s views to Aristotle’s.


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    03 Apr 2012 at 12:34 am #652

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Yeah…maybe if you think humans and the world are somehow cutely segregated into “western and”…etc.

    The idea that there is some kind of “western” civilization is just well…the only thing more restricted and more ethnocentric is to think that the bible has some kind of sole original narratives.

    Not everyone who gets pleasure from reading (Shakespeare, Melville, McCarthy) grew up on christianity or the Bible. I for one did not grow up Judeo-christian, I was raised Pagan, on UFOs, Elvis, meditation, Buddha and reincarnation and the stories by these authors are not limited to growing up with reading the Bible. And much later…reading the Bible did not add to my experiences with any of those writers…in fact…what I learned was that the Bible stories are from Pagan sources and have connections with older stories.

    The Bible is made up of oral traditions with threads, topics and incantatory references in dozens of stories from all kinds of societies. The Jesus story is very similar to the Krishna story. “Hamlet’s Mill” accounted them as “strong boy myths”.

    And the idea that Shakespeare was writing in a Christian venue is sadly mistaken. Any extended reading of Shakespeare leads one to ancient myths and oral traditions throughout Wales, and Greece and even Haida myths. Shakespeare knew well enough to suck up to the government and royalty living in the midst of terrorism and the layers of metaphor and “religion” were cloaks to keep his head off a stalk on a bridge…but he was hardcore reaching back to pagan stories he grew up with…reading shakespeare for thirty years has lead me all the way back to Stonehedge, Khirsna and Egypt…very little about the Bible has opened doors reading Shakespeare. Or Melville. They were just way more locking horns with the world…not just one segment of a society.

    Besides…during most of Shakespeares career the crazy terrorist country was governed by Elizabeth..and the King James Bible was published near the end of Shakespeares life not to mention his writing career.

    I actually believe that Shakespeare stopped writing tragedies after Elizabeth died because the political climate changed with the change of monarchy. His tragedies make amazing critiques of the Monarchy. Just a theory I have pursued because the change of tone in his works is a bit of a mystery…and he wrote quite different stories after King James was corronated. No more tragedies.


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    03 Apr 2012 at 12:52 am #655

    Candy Minx
    Member

    p.s. I think the author of that article…which was charming should look into the science theory called “the observer effect”.

    Reading is a little like science especially when it comes to McCarthy, shakespeare and Melville (particularly Moby Dick)

    There is something about the ego that it loves validation…like “see, I knew it I am Judeo-Christian…and I was there first with McCarthy/Melville/Shakspeare”

    The ego loves to try to be “more understanding” of things than others…like somehow Shakespeare is owned by Christians or McCarthy is better understood by Christians…and only the ego would try to qualify Catholic versus Protestant…gee sounds like Shakespeares terrortist country doesn’t it? How typical of the ego to want to have McCarthy more Protestant than Catholic…its actually hilarious!

    The observer effect

    “In physics, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on the phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure. This effect can be observed in many domains of physics.”

    “The related social-science term observer bias is error introduced into measurement when observers overemphasize behavior they expect to find and fail to notice behavior they do not expect. This is why medical trials are normally double-blind rather than single-blind. Observer bias can also be introduced because researchers see a behavior and interpret it according to what it means to them, whereas it may mean something else to the person showing the behavior.”


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    03 Apr 2012 at 10:17 pm #668

    Anonymous

    You can enjoy reading Rumi without any knowledge of the Koran but this does not change the fact that he writing within a tradition. We aren’t readers merely or else we wouldn’t be here. We read for our very lives the way the gang pissed for theirs. Knowledge of the Bible does not have to presuppose that you are Christian, and I suspect thats why Universities commonly have Bible as Literature courses. I didn’t grow up in a Buddhist household but I’d feel poorer for not have read the Dhammapada or The Heart Sutra or Shobogenzo.


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    04 Apr 2012 at 10:08 am #671

    Richard L.
    Member

    The Bible, Shakespeare, and the Greeks are a big part of the communal bath we all swim in. You may not read or read and reject Freud or Plato or Aristotle, but they are so immersed in the culture, in other people’s books and movies and daily thought, that you absorb them whether you will or not.

    In addition, there are human universals, so that if you were raised in a Buddhist or a Moslem tradition, the precepts regarding common sense civil behavior are all pretty much the same.

    John Prine wrote a simple song about that, and there is a wealth of literature detailing the common denominators of both religions and common myths we live by, especially Greek, Judeo-Christian, and Buddhist ideas. See, for example, Thich Nhat Hanh’s LIVING BUDDHA, LIVING CHRIST.

    Buddhists, like Christians, have a tough time living up to their ideals. The subliminal fear of death, greed, and the other animal impulses get in the way. No matter how evolved and civil culture may become, every generation breeds a new crop of animal men, new barbarians, whose greed and destructive nature always threatens the successes of the previous generation.

    Which is why we should keep teaching the humanities to our young. Which is why we should encourage the reading of the classics–the Greeks, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Emerson and Whitman. Faulkner and McCarthy. Everyone in the classic tradition.


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    04 Apr 2012 at 11:27 am #673

    Candy Minx
    Member

    Ah…but I didn’t say not to read the Bible or that the sacred texts are not of value or they don’t add to our understanding of the human condition or add to the wealth of human story-telling.

    It is the framing of the articles argument that I am reacting to:

    The idea that the references and sources of language and particular texts support an argument for labeling an authors intent or a novels essay.

    It is not the Koran or Bibles “fault” that someone might co-opt a pice of art be it a novel or a sculpture or movie and try to force feed a moral arguement.

    The idea that there is a “western civilization” or the idea that “catholic versus prostestant” is anything other than petty is bullshit.

    i am calling bullshit on the article’s argument and on the co-opting of such an argument to promote one’s worldview onto a work of art as a political or religious pice of “evidence”.

    I agree with you richard in your succinct point that

    “The Bible, Shakespeare, and the Greeks are a big part of the communal bath we all swim in. You may not read or read and reject Freud or Plato or Aristotle, but they are so immersed in the culture, in other people’s books and movies and daily thought, that you absorb them whether you will or not.”

    This is very true…only…I say the “absorbing” occurs backwards.

    The arrogance of our egos and the power of culture encourages the perception the sacred texts keep us real or teach us lessons.

    No.

    You know how the idea that as seniors get older they are prone to falling and then they may break a bone?

    Well, within palative and aging studies there exists another way of looking at that terrible problem. Their bone breaks and then they fall.

    Richard said…”the precepts regarding common sense civil behavior are all pretty much the same.”

    Every lesson in a sacred text has come from nature. all the anecdotes, wisdoms exist already among social groups including dogs, ants, monkeys. A dog already knows “do unto others as you would have done unto you”. Dogs and monkeys already live within the laws of karma. Not because we have sacred texts but because socializing involves following nature and natures laws.

    In response to attempts, for example by Aden, to co-opt a novel to a religious/political view I would say…

    Blood Meridian is to the Bible what The Satanic Verses is to the Qur’an.


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    • This reply was modified 5 years, 9 months ago by  Candy Minx.
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    04 Apr 2012 at 11:38 am #676

    Candy Minx
    Member

    And…my other point in my previous posts was about Shakespeare and the Bible.

    The article says…

    “As a matter of fact, I think you have to say that the English language would not be the same without it,” Alter told me recently, referring to the King James Version. “Warts and all, it’s a great achievement of English style.”

    This is all fine and dandy unless you actually read Shakespeare.

    I repeat…Shakespeare worked under the reign of Elizabeth for most of his career. He lived in a terrorist state (which is probably partly why his tragedies are relevant and dear to our hearts today since we relate) afraid to say the wrong thing.Shakespeares whole family was Catholic and its a tribute to his writing he could get away with the Pagan and mystical stories he wrote tracing back through Catholicism and oral histories of small town England and Wales.

    King James, and his Bible, did not appear until the last few plays Shakespeare wrote before his death.


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