duck5

procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Robert Alter - Illustrated

two translations of Robert Alter have been all the rage at college - The David Story (1&2 Samuel) and this year his translation of the Psalms.

the psalms is particularly good - his translation methodology is admirable - particularly the way he strives for terseness, in homage to the underlying Hebrew.

he has also written a great book the art of biblical narrative and translated Genesis

last year however i read an article he'd written in the New Republic called Scripture Picture. It's a four page article about the new illustrated Genesis by Robert Crumb using his translation (Crumb is probably quite famous in graphic novel circles, in others not so - check out the film Crumb where he plays himself, or even American Splendor [sic] for someone playing him in a minor roll - it's a good film!)


the article really is a good read. it's a fascinating discussion about what you do as you illustrate the bible, or depict anyone in another form. who are you when you hit the page in picture? it's hard enough to identify with yourself in print (ever critically read your own CV?), without having that then exported to another medium altogether.

there is something permanent-ising, objectifying, about turning the scriptures into pictures. the ambiguity is gone, the imagination, rather than engaging with ideas, is left to other devices - perhaps joining frame to frame in their head, filling out the missing action/movement.

and i wonder, do we do the same when children are read the scriptures as a child (i'm thinking big picture bibles)? why are we so fixated on the need for images to convey a message? do we not trust that people will do the imagining themselves?

(i think i was originally going to procrastinate about whether to buy Alter or Crumb - if you have an opinion, let me know in the comments. Cheers!)

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4 Comments:

OpenID joelamoroney said...

I'm reading Crumb's Genesis at the moment. It's not purely Alter's translation, but a mix between Alter and the KJV.
Crumb is very pretty to look at though

8:04 am  
Blogger psychodougie said...

yeah cool - i'd love to borrow it off you when you're done with it.

how are you finding the whole text/image thing? is it a positive or negative experience?

9:24 am  
OpenID joelamoroney said...

So far I'm loving it. Firstly I'm a visual person, so that works for me. Secondly, I'm (for the first time) loving the genealogies. I love how he presents them.

10:08 am  
OpenID theboxpop said...

Hey Doug

It's a fair call you make about the dangers of illustrated Bibles for kids, I know our kids Bibles imprinted an image of what Jesus looked like, for example, which it took me years to shake off.

The only word of caution I would offer is that there is an obvious developmental barrier to them being able to do that kind of higher-order imaginative legwork when they are as young as the big picture Bible is recommended for (<5). At that age we actually require visual stimulation to give our imagination a kick-start.

8:33 pm  

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