Skip to main content
Log in

Stitching Joseph's Coat in Thomas Mann's Joseph und Seine Brüder

  • Published:
Neophilologus Aims and scope Submit manuscript


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Works Cited

  • Apter, T. E. Thomas Mann: The Devil's Advocate. London: Macmillan, 1978.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berger, Willy R. Die Mythologischen Motive in Thomas Manns Roman 'Joseph und seine Brüder.' Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 1971.

    Google Scholar 

  • La Bible. Alliance biblique universelle, 1992.

  • Clifford, Richard J. and Roland E. Murphy. 'Genesis.' In The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Eds. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1990, 8-43.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coote, Robert B. and David Robert Ord. The Bible's First History. Philadelphia. Fortress Press, 1989.

    Google Scholar 

  • Culler, Jonathan. Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature. London: Routledge, 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cunningham, Raymond. Myth and Politics in Thomas Mann's Joseph und seine Brüder. Stuttgart: Hans Dieter Heinz, 1985.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eliade, Mircea. Le Mythe de l'éternel retour. Paris: Gallimard, 1969.

    Google Scholar 

  • Findley, Timothy. Not Wanted on the Voyage. London: Penguin, 1984.

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedman, Richard Elliott. Who Wrote the Bible. New York: Summit Books, 1987.

    Google Scholar 

  • Genette, Gérard. Palimpsestes. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1982.

    Google Scholar 

  • Holy Bible: New International Version. New Brunswick, NJ: New York International Bible Society, 1978.

  • Mann, Thomas. Joseph und seine Brüder. In Stockholmer Gesamtausgabe der Werke von Thomas Mann. Oldenbrug: S. Fischer Verlag, 1962.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nolte, Charlotte. Being and Meaning in Thomas Mann's Joseph Novels. London: W. S. Maney & Sons, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Noth, Martin. A History of Pentateuchal Traditions. Trans. Bernhard W. Anderson. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1972.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stock, Irvin. Ironic out of Love: The Novels of Thomas Mann. London: McFarland, 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tournier, Michel. Les Roi des Aulnes. Paris: Gallimard, 1970.

    Google Scholar 

  • Von Rad, Gerhard. Genesis: A Commentary. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1972.

    Google Scholar 

  • Westermann, Claus. Genesis: An Introduction. Trans. John J. Scullion. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tumanov, V. Stitching Joseph's Coat in Thomas Mann's Joseph und Seine Brüder. Neophilologus 84, 255–270 (2000).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: