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The Bible and Modern Literature
27 minutes | Jul 19, 2022
June Jordan's poem "1977: Poem for Fannie Lou Hamer"
Jeanne and Jennifer read and discuss June Jordan's "1977: Poem for Fannie Lou Hamer." Hamer was a civil rights activist who mentored June Jordan and many other Black poets and activists. Jamaican-American poet June Jordan named this poem for the year Hamer died, and it commemorates Hamer’s work as a voting rights activist–dangerous business in Mississippi in the 1960s.
35 minutes | Jun 16, 2022
Alicia Ostriker's "Interlude" and the Book of Joshua
This episode explores how Alicia Ostriker's poem "Interlude" from her collection Volcano Sequence uses a reference from the Book of Joshua to explore history, violence, and trauma.
32 minutes | Feb 22, 2022
Fire Imagery in the Bible and Alicia Ostriker's poem "Fire"
In this episode, Jeanne and Jennifer discuss fire imagery from the Bible and from an Alicia Ostriker poem, investigating how images of fire explore connections between God-experience and violence, God-experience and history, God-experience and the desire for social justice.
35 minutes | Jan 5, 2022
How can poets help us re-see the Newer Testament?
This episode explores a central Bible motif and scene type that recurs throughout both testaments--the meeting at the well. After examining some scenes from the Bible that take place near wells, the conversation turns to Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Know Where Wells Grow.”
37 minutes | Nov 28, 2021
Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
In this episode, Professors Jennifer Bird and Jeanne Petrolle explore how Anne Sexton’s Poem “Jesus Walking” portrays Jesus of Nazareth. While considering the poem, the professors also discuss wilderness scenes from the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew, unpacking some of the metaphorical possibilities of the Newer Testament's "wilderness" motif.
19 minutes | Oct 27, 2021
What does it mean to "decolonize" a Bible story?
Professors Jennifer Bird and Jeanne Petrolle discuss the Book of Daniel alongside the poem “martha promise receives leadbelly,” by Pulitzer-prize-winning African American writer Tyehimba Jess, who uses the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to reflect on the life of Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, American blues legend. In the course of considering Jess's poem, the conversation explores "colonizing" and "decolonizing" approaches to interpreting the Bible. Music credits:Just As Soon by Kevin MacLeod https://incompetech.com/License: CC BY 3.0 https://goo.gl/Yibru5
24 minutes | Oct 16, 2021
Episode 1: What does it mean to approach parts of the Bible as "myth"?
Bible scholars who describe one of the Bible's genres as "myth" are not trying to assert that some of the Bible's stories are scientifically or historically "untrue." Rather, they are pointing out that some parts of the Bible do not aim at scientific or historical truth so much as they aim to picture fundamental aspects of human experience, poetically. The image of Lot's wife (or woman) turning to salt, for instance, which American poet laureate Joy Harjo uses in her poem "Exile of Memory," can be read as a story-picture about human responses to historical trauma.
21 minutes | Aug 27, 2021
Episode 8: Rainer Maria Rilke's Love Poems to God, Book I, Poem 4
This episode explores Book 1, Poem 4 of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. Rilke's poem suggests that monarch images of God may actually present obstacles to an experience of God. While investigating Rilke’s poem, we’ll consider what theorists call the problem of representation, as it pertains to the idea or experience of God.
24 minutes | Jun 19, 2021
Episode 7: James Weldon Johnson's "The Creation"
Episode 7 explores how James Weldon Johnson's poem “The Creation” retells the Genesis creation story, shifting the dominant Christian interpretation of the story by focusing on original goodness rather than original sin. Weldon Johnson’s poem highlights the presence of Blackness in creation, celebrating the goodness and glory of Black bodies, Black culture, and a Black God.
26 minutes | Apr 24, 2021
Episode 6: Sherman Alexie's "Crow Testament"
This episode discusses how Native American writer Sherman Alexie’s poem “Crow Testament” combines a Native American Trickster figure, Crow, with multiple Bible references, to narrate the history and aftermath of White European violence against indigenous Americans. Using the stories of Cain and Abel, the battle of Jericho, and the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, “Crow Testament” situates colonial violence within the larger story of human violence narrated in the Hebrew Bible and Christian Scriptures.
28 minutes | Apr 5, 2021
Episode 5: Paul Laurence Dunbar's "An Antebellum Sermon"
This episode explores how Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "An Antebellum Sermon" uses the Exodus story to envision freedom from racialized violence in the United States. In addition to discussing how the Exodus story illuminates the White supremacist politics of Dunbar's era, the episode also uses Exodus, alongside Dunbar's poem, to reflect on the resurgence of open White nationalism in 2021 American politics.
25 minutes | Mar 18, 2021
Episode 4: Wilfred Owen's "The Parable of the Old Man and the Young"
This episode explores how British anti-war poet Wilfred Owen's poem "The Parable of the Old Man and the Young" uses the story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac to comment on World War I.
26 minutes | Jan 23, 2021
Episode 3: Ursula LeGuin's "She Unnames Them"
This episode explores how American author Ursula LeGuin's short story "She Unnames Them" makes use of the Genesis creation stories. While exploring the role of language in creating social roles, the episode also provides snapshots from the history of feminist and Womanist thought starting with Christine de Pisan, then touching upon Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Sojourner Truth, and Dr. Wilda Gafney.
27 minutes | Dec 7, 2020
Episode 2: Anna Akhmatova's "Lot's Wife"
The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova's poem "Lot's Wife" draws its central images from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The story's unnamed, enigmatic character, Lot's Wife, who becomes a "pillar of salt," has fascinated rabbis, painters, and poets from antiquity to the Renaissance and into the modern world. This episode explores the poem and its source story, while exploring irresistible adjacent issues like homosexuality, the historicity of the Bible, and the role of storytelling in the construction of national identity.
4 minutes | Nov 25, 2020
Episode I: Introduction
This Introduction explains what the Bible and Modern Literature podcast explores, establishing which Bible translations the host will use and previewing future episodes.
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