Telling stories about God: Narrative voice and epistemology in the Hebrew Bible and in the fiction of Flannery O'Connor, Graham Greene and Cynthia Ozick

Janet M Gallagher, Fordham University

Abstract

This study examines the relationship between narrative voice and epistemology in several modern religious novels: Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away, Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair, and Cynthia Ozick's Trust and The Cannibal Galaxy. A paradigm for a relationship between narrative voice and epistemology is established through analysis of a narrative from the Hebrew Bible, 2 Samuel 9-20. In this narrative, and in the Hebrew Bible generally, there is a close relationship between the epistemology in the text--how characters come to knowledge of themselves, their world and their God--and the epistemology of the text--how readers come to knowledge of the characters, the story-world, and the narrative's theology. Both the Hebrew narrator and the Hebrew God are omniscient, but both are also hidden; they do not share their knowledge with readers or with characters. In the face of limited knowledge, both characters and readers must struggle to understand God's purposes. Thus, 2 Samuel 9-20 encourages the reader to experience its theology of a hidden God who nevertheless is active in history.^ The modern novels have a variety of types of narrative voice, ranging from a nearly biblical third-person narrator in The Violent Bear It Away to first-person narrators in The End of the Affair and Trust. The theologies of these works differ, yet the struggle to come to knowledge is at least a secondary theme in all five novels. In various ways, depending upon the type of narrative voice, the novels lead readers to share that struggle, so that what these novels have in common with 2 Samuel 9-20 is an emphasis upon difficult knowing. ^

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Biblical studies|American literature|English literature

Recommended Citation

Gallagher, Janet M, "Telling stories about God: Narrative voice and epistemology in the Hebrew Bible and in the fiction of Flannery O'Connor, Graham Greene and Cynthia Ozick" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9025017.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9025017

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