Stitching Joseph's Coat in Thomas Mann's Joseph und Seine Brüder
- Cite this article as:
- Tumanov, V. Neophilologus (2000) 84: 255. doi:10.1023/A:1004525900985
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The argument proceeds from the Documentary Hypothesis in modern biblical studies. This hypothesis is based on the assumption that the 1st 5 books of the Old Testament were written by four different authors at different times. These authors are known as J, P, E and D. Their writing was joined in the 5th c. B.C.E. into what became the Pentateuch and the first part of the Old Testament. The result of this joining was a series of contradictions and redundancies in the final text as we have it today. Readers of the Bible who seek to read it as one coherent text try to naturalize these contradictions by what I call "stitching." Stitching involves putting coherence back into the Pentateuch by accounting for the contradictions and redundancies in terms of plausibility and common logic. Modern authors who write versions of Old Testament stories, such as Thomas Mann in his Joseph and his Brothers, also engage in stitching. I demonstrate how Mann stitches a number of important episodes from the Patriarch saga. I discuss the effect of this process on the story line. I compare that to two other recent instances of biblical stitching in modern fiction. And I conclude with the argument that stitching in modern biblical hypertexts stems from the need for coherence in the modern realistic novel. This post-Enlightenment coherence impulse is contrasted with myth and the latter's tolerance for loose ends and less than coherent narrative.