Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Persistence of a Fish Tale

Kaspen Prague Anagram

Abbot and Costello have a great piece on Jonah and the whale. It is another example of the persistence of the story of the reluctant prophet in popular culture.

Yvonne Sherwood has written a fascinating monograph, A Biblical Text and its Afterlives: The Survival of Jonah in Western Culture. With a clear relish for her subject she begins with an introduction entitled -- "Marvellous excess and monstrous mutations on dishing up and spinning (out) biblical words." She goes on from there. She traces Jonah's journey not from Joppa to Tarshish, as he intended, but rather a stranger passage from Jewish scripture to Christian sarcophagus via the words of Jesus in the Gospels. Later he enters the backwater of popular myth until he, as Dr. Sherwood put it is, "Jonah on the oncology ward and the beached-up whale carcass; or the strange secular afterlives of biblical texts."
This text with it's counter intuitive message and anti-prophet continues it's life even after the religion it formed and the civilization it informed are forgotten in a post-modern amnesia. But it is to be hoped that perhaps the amnesiac may yet regain memory and faith. I do not lose hope. JWS

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