Comparative Literature and Religion of Biblical Worlds - RSST6320

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


The Bible is commonly thought of as a book that has got its story together, and a bastion of monotheism. We think of the Bible as the very opposite of the projects of Comparative Literature and Comparative Religion: one book, one literature, and one God. However, as soon as we start reading we discover a library of divergent books, literatures and gods. The bulk of the 'books' in the Bible pre-date structures like the codex and the author. They borrow, often very explicitly, from other literatures: for example, Wisdom Literature and Proverb Collections from Egypt and Mesopotamia, Greco-Roman novels and philosophical tracts.

Through a series of selected readings, students will critically engage the question of the comparative, the plural and the foreigner by looking at topics including (but not limited to) the question of the other, or the outside on the Bible's inside; other literatures from which the Bible borrows (e.g. the Epic of Gilgamesh or Lives of the Philosophers); narratives that are 'othered', doubled or tripled within the Bible (inner-biblical mimicry); and examples from modern literature, film and philosophy that adapt and respond to biblical narratives, tropes and gods.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40

Method of assessment

Essay (3,500 words total) – 50%
Commentary (2,500 words) – 40%
Presentation & Write-up (10 minutes + 1,000 words) – 20%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Assmann, J. (1997). Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
Bal, M. (2008). Loving Yosuf: Conceptual Travels from Present to Past. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press
Freud, S. (1955). Moses and Monotheism. New York: Penguin Random House
George, A. (2003). The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin Classics
Levenson, J.D. (2012). Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Schwarz, R. (2004). The Curse of Cain. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press
Smith, M.S. (1999). The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel. New York: HarperCollins
Trible, P. and Russell, L.M. (eds.), (2008). Hagar, Sarah and the Their Children: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Perspectives. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module both Level 5 and Level 6 students will be able to:
- Demonstrate coherent knowledge of and the ability to critically assess biblical narratives;
- Demonstrate coherent knowledge of and the ability to critically assess key biblical intertexts;
- Demonstrate coherent knowledge of and the ability to critically assess responses to biblical narratives, tropes and figures in select examples from modern literature, film and philosophy;
- Critically compare different 'literatures' and different religious models inside and outside the Bible;
- Demonstrate detailed understanding of the different cultural, religious and political contexts behind the different literatures studied;
- Reflect critically on concepts such as 'comparison', 'mimesis', 'interdisciplinarity' and 'the other/the foreigner'.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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