Pen of Iron by Robert Alter
American Prose and the King James Bible

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The simple yet grand language of the King James Bible has pervaded American culture from the beginning--and its powerful eloquence continues to be felt even today. In this book, acclaimed biblical translator and literary critic Robert Alter traces some of the fascinating ways that American novelists--from Melville, Hemingway, and Faulkner to Bellow, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy--have drawn on the rich stylistic resources of the canonical English Bible to fashion their own strongly resonant styles and distinctive visions of reality. Showing the radically different manners in which the words, idioms, syntax, and cadences of this Bible are woven into Moby-Dick, Absalom, Absalom!, The Sun Also Rises, Seize the Day, Gilead, and The Road, Alter reveals the wide variety of stylistic and imaginative possibilities that American novelists have found in Scripture. At the same time, Alter demonstrates the importance of looking closely at the style of literary works, making the case that style is not merely an aesthetic phenomenon but is the very medium through which writers conceive their worlds.


About Robert Alter

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Robert Alter is Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew & Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.
Published February 28, 2010 by Princeton University Press. 208 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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Among the many English translations of the Bible, a single one is responsible for the shape of some of the most iconic works of American literature, argues Alter, a comparative literature professor

Mar 08 2010 | Read Full Review of Pen of Iron: American Prose a...

The Wall Street Journal

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How the cadences and diction of the King James Bible affected the prose style of American writers.

Mar 07 2010 | Read Full Review of Pen of Iron: American Prose a...

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