Monday, September 30, 2019

Emalee on Fulke Greville

Roberts, "Fulke Greville's Aesthetic Reconsidered" (Emalee Schmeidel)

In “Fulke Greville’s Aesthetic Reconsidered,” David A Roberts discusses the purpose of poetry, the two different types of poetry, and which type is better.  He also discusses which type of poetry Fulke Greville uses and why it is significant.
            Roberts argues that poetry is a way to repair nature, which was destroyed by man.  He discusses how poetry is man’s imitation of nature, and that poetry corrects the imbalance of man, and thus “poetry helps restore the primal balance of all nature, since man was the source of the fall of nature.”  Roberts is arguing that the point of poetry is to reflect nature and essentially heal it.
            Roberts then goes on to discuss the two different types of poets/poetry, “Clear spirits” and “Dull spirits”. He says that “clear spirits” also carry a negative connotation, as they are too “subjective” and “emptied of contents”.  Roberts describes the meaning of their poetry as “superficial”.  He says that nature in their eyes is “inconsistent”.  He then goes on to discuss “dull spirits”.  They are described as the complete opposite of “clear spirits”.  Roberts describes the poetry of “dull spirits” as being much more obscure than that of “clear spirits”.  He also explains that while the “clear spirits” focus on the drastic ups and downs of nature, “dull spirits” focus on the constants of nature, so they are much more moved by the power of the drastic changes in nature, thus influencing their poetry in a more powerful, genuine way. 
            Roberts then argues that Fulke Greville uses more of a “dull spirit” style, as he focuses more on what happens after the decline of nature.  He also describes Greville’s style as obscure.  However, he also argues that Greville uses both styles in a very unique way.  Greville uses a much more “clear spirit” style at the beginning, but it morphs into the “dull spirit” style as the persona in his work grows as a person and learns how to find clarity. 
            In conclusion, Roberts argues that the purpose of poetry is to imitate nature, and that there are two different styles used to achieve this purpose.  He also argues that the “dull spirit” style is better because it is more genuine than the inconsistencies of the “clear spirit”.  He ends by arguing that Greville uses both of these styles in a unique way, beginning with the “clear spirit” and ending with the “dull spirit” as Greville’s persona is enlightened. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Remy on Whitney

Wendy Wall, "Isabella Whitney and the Female Legacy" (Remy Fisher)
In “Isabella Whitney and the Female Legacy,” Wendy Wall argues that Whitney reinforced the language of legacy that eventually became a rhetorical tradition in English literature. Women of the mid-sixteenth century faced obstacles in establishing themselves as public figures and, constrained by typical patriarchal structures within language, were archetypally utilized as corporeal metaphors within male-written prose. Yet still, as Whitney and other female authors prevailed as they produced inheritance-driven prose the tradition of Petrarchism was reintroduced to modern culture.
As death in childbirth was a common feat among women, some utilized the inevitable opportunity to publish final legacies, or wills, that relied upon the “sanctity of the final departure” (38). Acknowledging morality and the perils of childbirth, the sincerity surrounding such an event provided women leeway into publishing. Wall begins by introducing Elizabeth Brooke Joceline’s The Mothers Legacie to her Unborn Child, published in 1624. Printed posthumously, the advice book was written for her daughter in the hopes that it would substitute her living guidance after the persistent possibility of dying in childbirth. When possibilities rang true, Joceline’s grieving husband published the book and although it was taboo for a woman’s work to be published, her untimely death and maternal duties justified her exposure. Carrying the humanist vision, Wall reinstates that because a woman’s “natural” province was the home (39), women could first-handedly explain the role of nurturer. Culturally, Joceline’s publication was seen as acceptable, for she is “merely doing her duty” under fatal circumstances.
Described by Wall as an “exemplary mid-century Tudor moral advice verse” (47), Whitney published A Sweet Nosgay in 1573 that continues the trend of instructing a younger generation. Timely, the Nosgay was published around the time the state began enforcing restrictions on a woman’s ability to make a will. Her anxieties form into tropes of social contamination and she confronts the problems of social exclusion and sexual libel within her culture. For example, in Wyll, the last poem within the Nosgay, Whitney transforms the legal form into an “ironic meditation on property, power and desire” (49). The power of her fabricated will channels the doom of a soon-to-be mother fearing mortality - the anticipated crusade toward death. Opening her work on property transmission by stating, “fayneth as she would die” (49), attention is demanded due to the dramatization of an already controversial subject.
By extrapolating female associations and traditions surrounding mortality, Isabella Whitney strengthened the tradition of Petrarchism in English literature. Using the strategy of over-dramatizing death and by preserving the legacy of motherhood women writers were able to immerse themselves within the publishing world despite gendered backlash.

Wall, Wendy. "Isabella Whitney and the Female Legacy," English Literary History 58 (1991): 35-62. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Jessica on Ratiere

Martin Ratiere, "The Unity of Sidney's Apology" (Jessica Williams)

Martin Raitiere, in his article “The Unity of Sidney’s Apology for Poetry”, argues that Sidney’s Apology for Poetry is not contradictory as some have claimed. Raitiere refers to an argument presented by O. B. Hardison, Jr. where Hardison states, “Sidney’s criterion of value seems to change drastically within the oration,” which was also pointed out by Mark Roberts. It has long been debated that Sidney “switches gears” so to speak in his Apology for Poetry which led many to believe that the piece was actually being revised but could not be finished before Sidney’s death (39). Part of Sidney’s work was written from a viewpoint of a humanistic thinker while the latter half is written in the viewpoint of a neo-classical thinker.

In the article, Martin Raitiere argues that the piece by Sidney was not revised at all and is actually a mirror to show the complexity of poetry. Raitiere says, “we can understand why the object of Sidney’s attention changes (from universal to local) precisely at the moment his “voice” or criterion of value changes (from furiously humanistic to cautiously neo-classic)” (49). This goes to show that when Sidney was switching from one theme to the next (universal to local), he switches his viewpoint from humanistic to neo-classic. This specific way in which Sidney switches between viewpoints is proof that the change of viewpoint in Apology for Poetry “does not result from superaddition or interpolation” (57). This unifies the ways in which poetry is written and perceived by the readers due to the objectivity of the writing.

It is also noteworthy that Sidney believed there to be a difference between poets. Some just tell stories while others teach lessons. Sidney believed poetry that taught lessons was of higher value and that “by few men that art can be accomplished”. He is more interested in the art itself and not the artist and is always reminding the reader of Apology of Poetry of the “distance between poetry in its general definition and all the merely local performances” (49). With Sidney’s piece, he is defending poetry and it’s nobility so that he, and others, can write poetry without being dropped in his class standing. The idea that poetry was only written as a hobby for gentlemen of a higher class is being challenged in The Apology of Poetry and feeds into the complexity of the piece as well as attempting to justify the ‘career poet’. The complex way in which Sidney is trying to normalize the idea of a career poet is reflected in the debate of how The Apology of Poetry was written by Sidney. It is made clear by Raitiere that Sidney did not begin to revise his writings before his death but was very conscientious of the way in which he was writing his argument for the nobility of poetry.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Lindsey on Helgerson

Richard Helgerson, "The New Poet Presents Himself" (Lindsey Greene)

In their article “The New Poet Presents Himself: Spenser and the Idea of a Literacy Career,” Helgerson explains the English transition from the “poet” to the “Poet,” focusing on Spenser, who in large part is the first English embodiment of the new “Poet.” For Helgerson’s purposes, “poet” refers to the traditional English poet of the time. These poets were defined as the “youth beguiled by love” (897). Poetry, for these writers, was not a career, but rather just a foolish hobby that only the young, love-struck men were entangled with. “poets” of the time would have included the likes of Sidney, Lodge, and Harington, who all spoke poorly of their own poetry and eventually matured and turned away from the craft. Spenser, however, is an example of the new “Poet.” The new Poet was, in a sense, a career poet. That is to say that poetry, was not just a hobby, but rather a career. Poetry, for the new Poet, is not a foolish endeavor; it is not necessarily an entirely private practice. For the new Poet, poetry is created with the intention and knowledge of being public. The new Poet was the contemporary realization of the Greek’s Homer, the Roman’s Vergil, the Italian’s Ariosto, etc. The Poet was self-proclaimed and relevant both to the contemporary idea of the pastoral poet, the “shepherd,” and the classic and “professed national Poet,” the “knight” (908).
The contemporary poet viewed poetry as the private endeavor. It was simply a hobby in which the individual would write the inner-most aspect of their soul, but only for the purpose of private contemplation. These poets were, in a sense, embarrassed of their work. Poetry was viewed as the foolish work of love-struck young gentlemen. While accepted by society, this type of poet was expected to grow up and out of the hobby. They would eventually move on from their love-sick verses and turn their life to public service. With poetry being a hobby, not a sustainable job, the only people who were privileged enough to carry on the hobby were those gentlemen of the higher classes. They would never risk the “major d├ęclassement” that would accompany the new Poet (896). Spenser, however, was “a gentleman only by education” (896). He considered poor in academia and only could attend Cambridge as a sizer, or work-study/scholarship student. Unlike Sidney, Harington, and Lodge, who all would have given up their elite titles, had they taken the step necessary to become a Poet, Spenser faced no major d├ęclassement. At least from the social graces perspective, this allowed Spenser to pursue poetry beyond the bounds that limited most gentlemen. Spenser managed to find a balance between the shepherd and knight roles, being able to both be ranked among the contemporary poets and to define “him as the unique English member of the species of professed national Poets” (908). Spenser marks an important shift in the definition of the poet, paving the way for other English Poets to pursue a literary career.

Emalee on Mirror for Magistrates

Budra, "The Mirror for Magistrates and the Politics of Readership" (Emalee Schmeidel)

In “The Mirror for Magistrates and the Politics of Readership”, Paul Budra discusses the different editors of The Mirror for Magistrates.  His argument is that the most recent editor, Richard Niccols, essentially ruined The Mirror for Magistrates.  He argues that Niccols’ intent for his edition of the work is what led to its decline. 
    Budra begins by discussing the first few editors, what they included in The Mirror for Magistrates, and how it impacted society and how well the collection sold.  The first editor, William Baldwin, included works through the War of the Roses.  The second editor, John Higgins, “filled in the period from Brut until Ceasar”. The third editor, Thomas Blennerhasset, included material from the Roman Conquest to William the Conqueror.  The fourth and last editor, Richard Niccols, included more works from that time. 
    Budra discusses the essential differences and importances of the works included by each of the editors.  The first three editors mainly included material that was old enough to not really cause any turmoil in society.  The material they included was mostly historically based.  It was far enough in the past to not cause unrest in their present day society.  While there were lessons meant to be seen in the works, the works were not about things recent enough to cause issues. 
    While the previous editors all made changes that were gradually causing a decline in the Mirror, the final editor, Richard Niccols, was really the one who caused the greatest decline, by including propaganda.  His edition was meant for the “urban reader” rather than the original audience of political authorities, but as Budra says, ultimately “was bound to alienate the citizenry”.  Budra discusses how Niccols ultimately missed the mark with his edition.  Ultimately it did not sell, even being released on 3 separate occasions. 

    Ultimately, Budra’s argument is that The Mirror for Magistrates was ultimately ruined by Niccols.  What was originally a collection meant for political authorities to read and learn history from was eventually turned into a piece of political propaganda.  Niccols took The Mirror and changed who the intended audience was, but the intended audience did not appreciate what he did with the collection.  This audience then did not purchase the collection, and led to it dying out.  As Budra said, “Niccols finally broke the Mirror”.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Horns of Moses

The Horns of Moses

I realize that my post is supposed to aid you, my 10101 class, in your endeavors with Exodus, the somewhat crabby God of the Israelites, those very stiff-necked, hardhearted people (as that God calls them), and Moses the middleman. First, though, I thought I should talk about something else. Call it a little-known fact, More Knowledge at College.

When I was a boy, a student teacher of ours told our class that some of her schoolmates at the large state university from which she was matriculating were so rustic that they believed that Jews had horns.  Those of us with Jewish ancestry, as well as those of us whose ancestors were of a different origin, were simply appalled.  Who could be so stupid, anti-Semitic, racist?

It turns out that even the most offensive things sometimes have a neutral provenance, no matter how mistaken they might be.

I have included a collage of Renaissance sculptures depicting Moses in all his glory, horned. Michelangelo was responsible for two of these, the famous statue in the bottom left, and the less notorious depiction in the top-right corner.

This medieval illuminated manuscript pictures Moses confronting the Israelites as they worship the golden calf (Ex 32).  William de la Braile, or whoever the artist was, avoided demonstrating the overt emotions of his subjects, according to medieval artistic practice, but you'll see that this annoyed prophet is horned and his people are not.

Why, you might ask, should it be accepted that this great hero of the Bible should be so represented? The explanation might be fairly simple: mistranslation.  The Hebrew "karan" could mean either "shining" or "horned."  In the Septuagint, the Greek rendition of the Old Testament known in the Near East for centuries, the translator, perhaps the Jewish scholar Aquila, supplied the Greek word "dedoxastai," which could mean "shining" or "was glorified."

St. Jerome, who translated the Greek Bible into the conversational Latin of the early medieval world, his version known thereby as the Vulgate, thought that "cornuta," or "horned," was the most accurate rendition of "dedoxastai." His version of Exodus 34.29: "cum descenderet Moses de monte Sinai tenebat duas tabulas testimonii et ignorabat quod cornuta esse facies sua ex consortio sermonis Dei" [when Moses descended from Mount Sinai, he held two tablets of the law and was unaware that his face was horned from his encounter with God].  Since Jerome's Bible was authoritative from Late Antiquity until the Reformation, there was no room to dispute what the Church had so decreed, and it might not have occurred to the Gentile population that a horned Moses could have offended Jewish readers, or Christians who were in sympathy with their Jewish fellow citizens. 

The Authorized Version of 1611, known to most English readers as the King James Bible, reads the aforementioned verse, "And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses's hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him." William Tyndale's translation, first encountered in print in the so-called Matthew Bible (1537) reads: "And Moses came doune from mount Sinai and the .ij. tables of witnesse in his hande, and yet he wyst not that the skynne of his face shone with beames of his comenynge with him." There are no horns here, folks. 

Incredible as it is to believe, it is also possible that Jews once believed that Moses was horned, as well. Though Christians associated horns with cuckoldry, the devil, and general bestiality, Jews in the ancient world generally did not share this frame of reference. This article from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz argues that Jerome could never have so mistranslated the Greek term, was acquainted with Jewish traditions and culture regarding virility, and was aware that a horned Moses had nothing to do with the Devil or anything else. Actually, to him, such a representation of this hero of the Bible was historically accurate and highly complimentary. 

At the same time, to return to my long-ago student teacher: this is pretty arcane information, and she represented things to us as best she could. I'm sure that the anti-Semitism she no doubt experienced has stayed with her, and I'm sorry that she had to experience it.

My interest in the Bible is historical and literary. I've always tried to verse myself in the humanity of the God of the Old Testament and that of Jesus of Nazareth in the New. We make our gods in our own image, they say. Also, the commentaries by theologians and various divines and church fathers have struck me as essential reading and of compelling interest, because often, readers knew the Bible just as much from doctrine as from the words of the Scriptures themselves. In fact, doctrine has been much more influential than the by individual Christians, as Martin Luther and William Tyndale, for instance, recommended such readers arrive at for themselves during the Reformation. For God the Father, his interventions in the lives of his people seem to some readers, even the devout, as capricious, arbitrary, personal.

The God of the Old Testament, especially in Exodus, seems angry and impatient, outraged that his miraculous work on the behalf of his people to free them from the slavery of Pharaoh in Egypt does not seem to be appreciated except by Moses. Over and over again, the Supreme Deity not only plagues the Egyptians tenfold, culminating in the killing of the firstborn, human and animal, but constantly "hardens the heart" of Pharaoh so that he refuses to "let the people" of Israel "go." Why spread suffering when it could be so easily mitigated and eased, even for the oppressive Egyptians? 

Sometimes this unexplained divine capriciousness extends to Moses himself.  In Exodus 4:22-23, God orders his servant to pass along his command to Pharaoh that unless he liberates the Israelites, the Lord will smite the Egyptians in the worst way, which turns out to be the Tenth Plague: the killing of the firstborn. Surely God already knows he will do this awful thing.  And then, complete madness seems to ensue. The next three verses read:

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.  (Exodus 4:24-26, KJV)

Bible commentators are equally puzzled, though as devout and believing readers, they express their confusion reverently. (See this link for the incredible depth of commentary.) The first "him" is Moses.  Zipporah is his wife. She was not an Israelite or familiar with that culture's customs. Their son was Gershom.  Apparently, God was so angry at Moses's failure to circumcise Gershon that this rage would have turned deadly, if not for the intervention of Zipporah, who apparently did not understand or respect the covenant of circumcision, as first instituted by God with Abraham in Genesis 17.13. 

As a coda, here are two illustrations of the fabulous engravings for the Matthew Bible (1537), the text of which most scholars agree was mostly the work of the magnificent William Tyndale.  The illustrations might have been the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder, one of the great artists of the early Renaissance. The copy whose illustrations appear below comes from the University of Pennsylvania. (Here is an informative essay, if you'd like to read it.)  There is some irony at work here.  Henry VIII and Thomas More, his Lord Chancellor, despised Tyndale, his gadfly-like criticism of Henry's new church, and particularly his translation of the New Testament. It was first published in Antwerp in 1526, and mostly confiscated and burned after the surreptitious copies were discovered by the royal agents who were somehow aware that reformers would be trying to smuggle them into England. More hated Tyndale so much that even when he himself was imprisoned and under interdict and death sentence for refusing to swear to Henry's Oath of Supremacy, he still insisted that Tyndale be captured, tried, and burned at the stake, which he was, in Brabant 1536. Tyndale's last words were, it is alleged, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes!" 

Apparently, those eyes were opened.  More's successor Thomas Cromwell saw the necessity of furthering the Reformation, presided over the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-37), and pushed his sovereign into accepting and authorizing an English translation, mostly by Tyndale, with some help from others.  Henry's own production, known as the Great Bible (1539), though largely presided over by Myles Coverdale, differed very, very little from the Matthew. The title-pages were similar, though Henry added himself as a dispenser of divine wisdom.

 Here is the title-page for the Matthew New Testament, which is identical to the same page for the Old Testament.

Here is a detail from the two top corners of this multiplex engraving.  To the left and below, God the Father bestows the law on Moses, who is, as you'll see, horned. To the right, the infant Christ acts as agent of his own Annunciation to his mother-to-be, Mary, receiving the divine light. Christ carries the cross on which he will be crucified and by which he will act as lux mundi and redemptor mundi: the light and redeemer of the world.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Remy on Surrey's Aeneid

“Surrey’s Translation of the Aeneid - O.B. Hardison (Remy Fisher)
Epic poetry has the ability to make a regular man noble. Through great triumphs and failures epic characters carry the philosophy that shapes cultures and community expectations. Noting this, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, sought to create a vernacular English form that was equivalent to the dactylic hexameter of classical epic, while still containing unrhymed continental forms. Through prosodic analysis, Hardison claims that Surrey’s translation of Vergil’s Aeneid had intentions of introducing a level of nobility into English closely related to the esteemed beliefs of esoteric humanists. The esoteric phase of English civic humanism consisted of translating and imitating original compositions, the end goal of transforming a culture through transformed language. In order to create this genuine translation, Surrey utilized syntactical strategies that mirrored Vergil’s Latin while still remaining innovative.
Vergil’s original consists of 13 lines, is written in dactylic hexameter and has 200 syllables. Surrey’s translation is 20 lines, written in iambic pentameter and contains 210 syllables. Due to the original Aeneid being written in Latin, Surrey’s translation is considered to be written in the Latinate, where the syntactical qualities of Latin are utilized in a different language and allowed him flexibility in sentence structure. For example, Emrys Jones claims that because of Surrey’s “consistency with the idiom of an uninflected language” (247) allowed him to produce structural units within phrases or clauses rather than a line. Latinate combined with enjambment created units different from and often larger than the pentameter line. The meter is generally regular, yet contain substitutions, seemingly only for artistic purpose. Much like the rocky road of a hero’s journey, Surrey’s irregularity helped create a consistent play, counterpoint, of metrical accent against syntactical accent.
Surrey drew from both Sir Thomas Wyatt and his predecessor Gavin Douglas as inspiration for his desire to create a new vernacular using blank verse. Wyatt was interested in domesticating “sophisticated continental forms” into English by using the Petrarchan sonnet, which contains fourteen lines of poetry, an octave and a sestet. He also applied the terza rima, which consists of interlocking three-line rhyme schemes of ABA, BCB, CDC, etc. This technique, at the time, was considered “considerably more modern” – in the sense of being regular (239). Contrastingly, Hardison states that it is “clear” Surrey drew off of Douglas. Although Douglas’ style is “clumsy,” and “familiar,” both qualities can be argued to have propelled Surrey to explore the format of blank verse. Rather than continuing or renewing a tradition, Surrey is committed to improving English by introducing new artistic forms – only partly to renovate the language. He wanted the language to be a “vehicle of values typical of other superior cultures, both ancient and modern,” because to improve the vernacular the ensuing culture is likely to elevate as well. By branching ideas off of the diverse Wyatt and Douglas - regarding both form and prose, Surrey was able to create a unique and well-rounded piece of art.
Hardison asserts that heroic poetry is “not only a civilizing force, it is the most powerful civilizing force that language offers” (241). In light of Tudor esoteric humanism Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, translated Vergil’s Aeneid and subsequently introduced a level of nobleness into English closely related to the respected beliefs of esoteric humanists. Through the use of Latinate and by applying the strategies of Wyatt and Douglas, Surrey created a language of English that drove sophisticated culture.


Hardison, O. B. (n.d.). Tudor Humanism and Surrey's Translation of the Aeneid.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Lindsey on Hamrick

Stephen Hamrick, "Tottel's Miscellany and the English Reformation." (Lindsey Greene)

Anyone listing to pop music in late 2013 is probably familiar with Hozier’s song “Take Me to Church.” Hozier’s lyrics are steeped with religious language used in reference to the lover. With lines like “I should’ve worshiped her sooner” and she’s Heaven’s “last true mouthpiece” as well as the use of words like “pagan,” “Goddess,” and “sacrifice,” the religious language is a constant trope relating the speaker’s passion for their lover with religious devotion (Hozier). I mention Hozier’s song as a modern example of religious language in art to help us bridge the gap to Stephen Hamrick’s argument in “’Tottel’s Miscellany’ and the English Reformation.” Even though many critics have argued that 16th century poetry is devoid of religion, Hamrick argues not only that religious language exists in these poems, but also that said language is being used to comment on the religious state at both the time the poems are being written, as well as when they are being republished.
Hamrick is positioning “Tottel’s Miscellany” in relationship to the religious reforms that took place before and throughout its early publications. The poems in the collection were written as early as the 1530s, during the time that Henry VIII separated from the Catholic church and formed the Church of England. During Edward VI reign (1547-1553), some of the major Protestant reforms occurred. His successor, however, Mary I (1553-1558) was a devote Roman Catholic. Her reign marked an aggressive and violent shift from the Protestant Reform back to traditional Catholicism. Of course, Mary’s successor, Elizabeth I (1558-1603) reimplemented the Protestant Reforms. Going along with this history lesson, we can see that the poems in “Tottel’s Miscellany” may have been written during the initial turn away from the Catholic church but weren’t official published until Mary I’s reign; however, multiple editions of the collection were published and distributed through Elizabeth I’s reign as well. The comments being made on religion are interpreted differently by scholars of the different times.
Past scholars have looked at Tottel’s collection as “didactic models of courtly performance, self-advertisement, and place seeking,” but Hamrick argues that they have failed to “set the anthology within contemporary religious history” (Hamrick 330). Some scholars even go so far to say that the poetry is devoid of religion, but Hamrick explains how that is not true. The Petrarchan poems are full of religious language, that can be interpreted through several lenses. There are three primary interpretations that Hamrick really addressed: 1. the religious language is used as a rhetorical device to help the readers, who would have been familiar with the language, connect with the intense emotions that the poet was trying to convey, 2. the religious language is used to represent Catholicism as a way of life, rather than just a faith, that is engrained in all elements of a follower’s life, including “speaking, thinking, moving, and outward appearance,” and 3. the religious language is used to criticize idolization in the Catholic faith (331-332). Hamrick states that the “strategic placement of Catholic poetics by editors and printers makes Surrey’s or Cheke’s own religious beliefs largely irrelevant” and that these poems “could be used by both Roman Catholic Queen Mary and Protestant martyr Anne Askew to justify their own…goals” (344). Hamrick utilizes the article to present and explain how the same rhetorical device of religious language is utilized to not only comment on Catholicism and the English Reformation, but also could be interpreted to support arguments made on opposite ends of the religious spectrum.
Works Cited
Hamrick, Stephen. “’Tottel’s Miscellany’ and the English Reformation.” Criticism, vol 44 no 4, 2002, pp. 329-361.

Hozier. “Take Me to Church.” Hozier, Rubyworks, 2014.

10101 responses to Genesis 37-50

On Joseph in Genesis 37-50

The story of Joseph started in Canaan. He was his fathers’ favorite child and his brothers were very jealous of him. Joseph had dreams that he would one day reign over his brothers. When Joseph told his brothers about his dreams, they became angrier with him. His brothers planned to get rid of Joseph by throwing him into an empty pit. They then decided to sell him as a slave. His brothers told their father that Joseph had been killed.  
Joseph’s brothers acted cruel to him. They were greedy and disloyal. His own family tried to leave him in a pit, without water, because they were jealous of the attention he got from his father. His brothers decided to sell him instead, which is selfish. They got rid of their fathers favorite child and made money off of him.  
He became a slave in Egypt, his master's wife lied and told his master that they “laid together”. Joseph was thrown into prison for something he didn’t do. While in prison, Joseph met a baker and a butler who had angered the Pharaoh. They both had dreams that they couldn’t interpret. Joseph told them that God was the one to interpret their dreams. Joseph told them the meaning of their dreams and both came to be accurate. The butler, who was supposed to help Joseph if his dream became a reality, let him down.  
Joseph was being helpful to the butler and told him good fortune was coming. The butler told Joseph that when he was back in Pharaohs good graces, he would help get Joseph out of prison. The butler forgot about Joseph for two years. He only remembered to bring up Joseph when the Pharaoh needed a dream interpreted.  
Joseph was stuck in prison for a few more years, until the Pharaoh had a dream and the butler happened to know an interpreter. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dream and Pharaoh praised Joseph. Pharaoh said to Joseph “only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you”. After seven years, famine struck. Joseph's brothers came to Egypt in search of food. Joseph kept one of the brothers while the rest went home to get the youngest son. He sent them with food and the money it would have cost. They returned with the youngest brother and they all dined with Joseph in his home.  
Joseph, who is now doing really well, invites the people who sold him into slavery to come eat in his home. He is being generous and also very clever. He frames the youngest brother for stealing a cup. He does this to test his brothers. They have apparently changed because the oldest is willing to go to prison for the youngest brother.  
This story is about Joseph's triumphs over how terribly people had treated him. He was let down by his family and the butler. His brothers were disloyal and greedy. He helped the butler and the butler forgot to help him get out of prison. Joseph’s dream still came to be true, his brothers did bow to him. There is no redemption in this story, Joseph had done nothing to redeem. His brothers needed to redeem themselves and they didn’t do anything impactful enough to make up for throwing their brother in a pit to die and then selling him into slavery.   

This “bomb thrower” of a student has thrown a rather huge bomb in regards to a section of the Bible, that being Genesis. She student claims that the story of Joseph is not heroic nor redemptive, but rather a story of misery, greed, and stupidy. I respond by telling her that she is not wrong, but rather misguided. In her state of confusion, I explain that she is right about everyone else in the story exemplifies the negative traits, but what about Joseph? Is the focus of the verse not Joseph? Is Joseph not redeemed by the end of the story? I then explain how Joseph and the entirety of his part in Genesis are not only heroic but redemptive.
            What better way to analyze a hero than to study his origin story. Joseph is introduced in Genesis: 37 as the twelfth, and favorite, son Jacob. It is immediately presented that Joseph is not only the favored of Jacob but by all of Isreal. For this reason, Joseph is despised by his brothers, who envy Joseph and his perfect character. A character like this can be annoying, for their ego is constantly fed which makes their attitude rather undesirable. In Joseph’s dreams, he is continually praised by his whole family who bow down to him. Genesis (37.9) has Joseph telling his brothers, “I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me,” which describes how even the universe bows to him. This leads to his own brothers to sell him to the Egyptian market. This is probably what the student thought about when she came to the conclusion of human stupidity. However, the story progresses from there.
            While in Egypt, Joseph becomes a slave, sold to a wealthy merchant named Potiphar. Joseph’s slavery is not, however, a bad thing; for “the Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39.2). Since the Lord was with Joseph, Potiphar quickly promotes him in the house, which attracts Potiphar’s wife. Throughout this part, Potiphar’s wife continues to make advances towards Joseph, who continues to resist the temptations. Resisting temptation is one of Joseph’s lessons he is unknowingly teaching. A hero must have the ability to resist the temptations of evil and find the light of righteousness. This backfires after Potiphar’s wife accuses him of raping her which leads to him being jailed.
            Even while in jail, the Lord remains with Joseph. Eventually, Joseph returns to his family and saves them from famine. Turns out, Joseph’s dreams came true as his family bow to him. In the end, Joseph stays with the Lord, therefore, bringing him from the brink of misery.

And so the student will know that heroism and redemption lies with the hero (Joseph) not just the surrounding characters who wrong him.

For one to posit that the tale of Joseph in the book of Genesis is solely one based on human misery, greed, stupidity, and disloyalty suggests a superficial, surface reading of the text. One needs to always keep in mind, when reading accounts or stories from antiquated times not to forget the differences between then and now. The differences that become apparent once we begin to juxtapose previous social and cultural norms from other time periods to present. Among many other things, this can help to elucidate certain character’s actions or reactions that seem to be so foreign to usregarding how we think they should act. It is quite easy to fall into the trap of moral relativism, quite the complex subject of its own. This game of moral relativism is an unwinnable one. One that has played out for time immemorial, long before any European thought to call a native of the America’s a savage.   
It is true that Joseph experienced much undue hardships, prior to and after his relocation to Egypt. He experienced much cruelty at the hands of his own flesh and blood. It is hard for us to conceptualize having the desire to toss a loved one into a well of sorts and even harder still to visualize selling them into slavery. On the other hand, jealousy is one of the basest of human emotions. One we have all flirted with at points in time. From everything we know based on the text, Joseph’s brothers had much to be jealous of. He was described as young and handsome. It was said that the Lord showed him favor in everything he attempted, and he was his father’s favorite son. This provides no excuse for their actions; however, it does provide motive. 
The heroism displayed by Joseph in Genesis is unlike what we in the West perceive to be heroism. The courage and humility required for a person to forgive and transcend such egregious transgressions against creates a standard we all should aspire to attain. One of the biggest aspects of the story we can all glean from is, first the estrangement from his brothers. but more importantly the reconciliation Joseph and his brothers experienced. The reconciliation and mending of Joseph and his family is why the story can be viewed as redemptive. It was more than just a material, personal redemption, in which he rose from being imprisoned to effectively second in command.  For a tale to be redemptive, in any sense of the word, some element of human misery is required. In fact, during chapter 45 of Genesis Joseph makes the remark that though they intended to do him harm, not only did God re-engineer the situation for Joseph’s benefit but Joseph’s brother’s actions were the medium the Lord had chosen in order to bring Joseph into Egypt.  
Whether life imitates art or art imitates life is better left to the likes of Aristotle and Oscar Wilde to debate, the one thing we can be assured of is that the two are an ouroboros of sorts that will forever be entertained. It has been said before, but humans are neither wholly good or wholly evil. Why then would we expect our literature, our art not to reflect this?  A story need not be a happy one to resonate within us and maintain its intrinsic value. Look no further than Romeo and Juliet for further evidence of this. A tale that ends in utter tragedy, yet it has been romanticized and pedestalized for many reasonsHow many of us cannot relate to the all-consuming passion that envelops oneself in the throes of first love? True our own lives aren’t cut short in such a fashion, yet it ends in heartbreak most of the time 
The impermanence of life is something the Buddha spoke about millennia ago. We need not get too attached with our projection of how certain events will unfold and should unfold. Life operates in not such a way, why would we demand so from the arts? The ending of Joseph’s story did culminate in a happy one. There was just much trial and tribulation he suffered in the middle. Consider Anne Frank for a moment. All the horror she endured and witnessed firsthand, but her indomitable will was so strong that not even all her external circumstances could extinguish the fire that burned inside of her and her hope in humanity. From a pessimist point of view her story had a terrible ending, which it cannot be argued her life didn’t. But Anne’s story didn’t end with her death, her tale lived on in her diary. And she became a shining example of who we now all aspire to be like. We must look beyond the material realm, for the material realm and anything it offers, wealth, power, fame, is not the test we are given. The Joseph of Genesis, like Anne Frank, passed this test and would have were he would have remained in prison too.  

The story of Joseph, while not particularly a very enlightening one, is certainly not void of any redemption and doesn’t exactly focus on greed or stupidity, either. The story definitely isn’t without its fair share of misery, but it’s important to understand that terrible things such as jealousy had to happen in order for there to be eventual redemption. 
The story starts by telling us that Joseph is the favorite of his father out of all of his sons due to him being born in his father Jacob’s old age. Joseph receives special treatment from Jacob, such as a very nice robe, and his brothers are understandably very displeased. They come to resent Joseph because of this. Later on, Joseph has dreams that depicted objects that represented his brothers bowing down to objects that represented him; “Listen to this dream I had: 7We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” (Genesis 37:6-7 NIV) This only makes his brothers despise him even more. 
When Joseph is sent off looking for his brothers, they find him, take his robe and throw him in a pit. They first considered killing him, then they all decided against it because he was their brother and they could sell him to make a profit instead. Joseph gets taken in by a Midianite, and through a long string of events, becomes the leader of all of Egypt. Joseph’s family then reunites in Egypt and they all become close to one another, even Joseph’s brothers are overjoyed to see him.  
Joseph’s story is certainly a story with disloyalty, greed and misery, but it’s certainly not without its cause and the story doesn’t make these acts a center piece. Yes, Joseph’s brothers sold him to Egypt because of their jealousy, greed and hatred of their brother, but it is because of this that they are eventually able to reconnect with their brother and fully appreciate what he has done for their family. 
Joseph as a person wasn’t a bad person either, by any means. He worked just as hard as his brothers in the field and went out of his way to do many things for his family, such as provide food for them during a harsh famine and even lets them reside in Egypt. He was a great help to the Pharaoh by deciphering his dreams and predicting the famine, letting them get a head start on gathering food for Egypt.  
Not only does the character of Joseph exude great examples of kindness and compassion towards those who despised him and wronged him, his brothers also changed for the better. Jacob had another son named Benjamin, whom he loved very much as well. When Joseph frames Benjamin for stealing his silver cup, his brothers are right there ready to defend Benjamin with their lives, pleading to do anything to convince Joseph otherwise. This was done so that Joseph could see if his brothers had changed their heinous ways towards him and when he finally reveals himself to them, they are awestruck and very happy to see him again; “Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him,” (Genesis 45: 14-15 NIV).  
The tale of Joseph is indeed filled with elements of human misery, greed and disloyalty, but it is because of these elements that redemption and heroism are allowed to and do prevail in the end. There is a very clear redemption in Joseph’s brothers in the end and Joseph holds no grudge against him, because what they did ultimately led him to where he ends up in Egypt, and because of his position he was able to help many others, including his family. In no way does this story lack any sort of redemption or heroic deed. 
The story of Joseph is indeed a tale of human misery, greed, stupidity, and disloyalty. That does not mean it cannot also be a tale of redemption and heroics. The meanings of the story of Joseph change depending on which characters you see the story through. If one chooses to see it through the eyes of the brothers, it is a tale that has the qualities stated by the student. When seen through the eyes of Joseph, it is a tale of redemption and heroics. When seen through the eyes of Jacob, Joseph’s father, it is a tale of both. 
    Joseph’s brothers hated him for the attention that their father bestowed onto Joseph, as they did not receive the same affection. They are exemplifying the previously stated “human misery” and plot to get rid of Joseph to alleviate said misery. In the story when the brothers throw Joseph into the pit, they first take his robe that their father had given to them. This exemplifies the greed in the tale that the student had made her audience aware of. One could even delve deeper into the emotions of the brothers and say that they were jealous and enraged that Joseph was their fathers favorite even though he was not the eldest child. The brothers felt more deserving of such affection and attention. The dreams that Joseph interpreted about how he would one day be bowed down to by his brothers and father just made the brothers more furious. They felt that Joseph had an arrogance about him that they needed to be rid of. The plot to kill Joseph was one of malice and disloyalty to the family, especially to their father and brother. Instead, the brothers sold Joseph to a passing caravan of Egyptians. 
    When Joseph was sold to the Egyptians, he became a servant to a man of power. This man’s wife wanted to bed him, but Joseph remained a man of faith and refused to commit adultery. Joseph was punished for this, as the wife deceived those around her including her husband. Joseph was made out to be the one who was trying to bed his master’s wife, and was thrown in jail. While Joseph was heroic in his actions, he was still punished, yet he remained a man of great faith. While Joseph was in this prison, he went on to interpret the dreams of two servants of the Pharaoh. He credited all of his abilities to God, remaining true to his faith. His story of redemption has not yet begun, but Joseph remained an honest and heroic character even in his lowest points.  
Joseph was eventually brought out of prison to rule over the lands of Egypt after interpreting the Pharaoh’s dreams of abundance in the land followed by famine. His story of redemption begins here and continues to elevate. During the famine, Joseph’s brothers eventually come to him in order to access the food that was stored when the land produced in abundance. Joseph recognized his brothers and told them to tell his father that he was alive and ruled the lands of Egypt. Joseph’s story of redemption ends when he is able to see his father before he dies. Joseph forgives his brothers for their actions, another act of heroism, because he believed that God had led him down this path to be able to rise up to where he was. 
Jacob, Joseph’s father, has a story of both human misery and redemption. When Joseph was sold, the brothers deceived him and led him to believe he was eaten by ravenous animals. Jacob then led a life of human misery for many years because he thought he had lost his favorite son. He was later able to find out that his son had risen to power in Egypt and was given the chance to see him again and live a life of plenty when land and food was offered by Pharaoh. Jacob led a life with many years of misery but was able to get his redemption story and see his lost son. 
Joseph’s story is a tale of heroism, redemption, and great faith. The brothers of Joseph have a tale of human misery, greed, stupidity, and disloyalty. It can also be said that the brothers were redeemed as well when they found their brother and asked for forgiveness. They were able to live with plenty and found their brother that they had betrayed so many years before. They bowed before him as was shown in Joseph’s dream because they finally saw that Joseph was right when he interpreted that dream. They were forgiven after their acts of malice, so the brothers had some sort of redemption story as well. Jacob’s part in the story includes misery for many years, but then a final redemption and happiness after finding his lost son. 

The book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, and of the Bible is one of creation, of the power of the Hebrew God’s all-encompassing love, and of collective human flaw; truly being human. Reading stories from the book of Genesis could certainly leave the reader with the impression that the people in these stories are nothing more than deceitful megalomaniacs that are concerned with nothing outside of their own selfish needs. In order to fully examine, explore, and ultimately strive to understand the stories in the Bible, they must be read in full religious context and centered around the notion that God is a loving “Father” that shows divine mercy to those that follow Him. In addition to a fair understanding of Christian teaching, historical and cultural context are equally as important.  One reading the Bible will encounter both Pagan and Christian rituals, ideals, and values that may seem brutal or at the very least unfamiliar and strange. When examining the story of Joseph, son of Jacob and Racheal, and grandchild of Isaac and Abraham, one must put into context the relevance of this religious story.  To simply say that this story is one of horrid human behavior is accurate, but over simplified, lacking depth and religious context.
The story of Isaac and his sons’ decedents of Abraham, is origin story of the tribes of Israel, a name given to Jacob from God. This story is fraught with deceit, manipulation, and misplaced moral superiority.   Jacob and his second wife Rachel gave life to a child named Joseph, a child among many, a favored by his father.  Many are familiar with the story of Joseph and his prophetic dreams and beautiful coat.  Josephs story is laden with deceit and lies, but through the many hardships and victories Joseph remains faithful to his Lord and exemplifies the goodness that humanity possess with all the complexities as well.   After being plotted against and sold into slavery, accused of rape and imprisoned he remains a servant to God and his promises, and to his dreams. Earning him prestige among men and continues favor with God.  Ultimately Joseph is reunited with his brothers with whom he forgives and protects. Forgiveness and devotedness are found throughout the Bible, a centralized theme, most notable the Jesus, the son of God, with whom Joseph shares many parallels.    
One could make the more obvious observations and conclusions about this story and the characters in it.  The characters are truly flawed; the brothers of Joseph feeling slighted by their brother and fearing subjugation plot against him seeking death and settling for slavery, both grievous acts, causing separation and pain, and devastating the Father, Jacob.  Even after carrying out such a heinous against their brother, they receive forgiveness from Joseph and protection.  The story gives many examples of the faith that Joseph has in God and the promises and blessing that God has made to him; God provides his love, guidance, and many blessings.  The story also echoes the many themes seen throughout Christian teaching; separation from God through sin and faithlessness being the most prominent.  Speaking to the larger context of this story is birth of Israel and the twelve nations, which God promised to Abraham, grandfather of Isaac, ensuring that Abraham would have as many decedents as grains of sand. When fitting this story into the rest of the book of Genesis as one complete story speaks the continuity of the love that the Hebrew God shows to his most devout and faithful servants and the mercy that he shows to flawed human that seek forgiveness.


Catholic Online Encyclopedia. Copyright 2019 Catholic Online.
Holy Bible. The New American Bible. 2001 – 2002 Edition. Genesis 27 – 50.
Pirson, Ron. The Lord of Dreams. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 335.
            Sheffield Academic Press. 2002.

At first glance when interpreting the story of Genesis in the Bible, Joseph may not seem very heroic. Closely analyzing the text of Genesis will show that Joseph is actually very heroic and noble. Throughout the hardships of his life, his faith never wavers, and his ability to forgive those who have done him wrong is heroic in itself 
Joseph, at the young age of seventeen, was hated by his brother’s so much so that they had sold him into slavery after initially throwing him into a pit to face death just because of his brother’s jealousy that he was the “favorite child” (Genesis 37:18-36). Following this great betrayal from his own flesh and blood, he was betrayed by the wife of his master, Potiphar, in Egypt a number of years later. She lied to those around her about Joseph trying to “lie with her” and in consequence of that accusation, Joseph was jailed by his master. Throughout all of the hardships Joseph faced, he kept a good spirit and faith in the Lord. His perseverance through those trials prove that he has some heroic attributes. Many people would have given up after the betrayal of their blood relatives, many may have given up after the accusation of flirtation with their master’s wife, and many may have given up after being jailed for a crime that was not committed. Joseph did not give up through any of this or lose his faith in God; his faith was strengthened and his loyalty remained strong to God. Although you can indeed see the disloyalty of Joseph’s brothers due to jealousy, you are given the picture of extreme loyalty to faith and a higher being in the story of Genesis through the actions of Joseph. 
One of the biggest examples to give of Joseph’s heroism and redemption is the way he handles dealing with his family later on in life, when they visit him in Egypt, while looking for food during the famine (Genesis 42).  Joseph’s brothers do not recognize him when they first go to beg for bread for their family because Joseph hid his face from them. Joseph recognized his brothers and he tests their loyalty and goodness before revealing himself through a few demands and tests given to prove themselves (Genesis 42:1-45:3). The ultimate test that was given to the brothers to show their loyalty to family was when Joseph had a silver cup planted in the youngest brother’s satchel and was threatened to be killed for stealing. Judah offered his own life in place of Benjamin’s, which proved to Joseph that his brothers had changed. Throughout all of the tests from Joseph to his brothers, he supplies them with food among other things, which is yet another example of why Joseph is noble and respectable. Joseph very easily could have denied his brothers of any bread and food, which he spent years putting back in preparation for the famine, but he does not. His giving heart could not let him to so to his brothers, even though they committed the ultimate betrayal towards him in the past.  
Joseph’s brothers, after finding out that the man giving them food was their brother that they sold into slavery long ago, set off to bring their father, Israel, to see his son who was thought to be dead. Israel had wanted to see his son Joseph one last time before he died. The brothers have shown a great story of redemption here after telling their father that his son was dead, and then years later coming clean and bringing Israel to his son to see him before he passed. Their redemption is also noted when they pledged themselves as Joseph’s servants (Genesis 50:18). That act shows that they are trying to make reparations for the wrong they had done in the past to their brother who was now of nobility in Egypt. Given all of that, it is obvious to me that Joseph’s story in Genesis is one that shows a great deal of nobility and heroism throughout the struggles he faced in his life because of the human greed, misery, and disloyalty that was around him. Without those negative attributes of those surrounding Joseph, we would not be able to see Joseph’s heroic qualities throughout his story.