Romancing the crucifixion in biblical rewritings by Phillip Pullman and Colm Tóibín

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Abstract

This paper focuses on how the romance mode is used to re-narrativize the trauma of Jesus’s crucifixion in two contemporary biblical rewritings: Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ 2010 and Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary 2012. Reflecting on the process of the composition of the Bible, these novels resort to romance in order to invite a critical reflection on different narrativizations of the traumatic event, dependent as they are on both conservative and more subversive effects of romance. As some characters rely on the strategies of traditional spiritual romance in order to alleviate their pain, others cynically resort to a dualistic vision to establish and consolidate power, and still others make use of the excess and disarticulation of romance to do justice to the absolute horror of the event, the novels draw attention both to the comforting and subversive function of Christian scripture. Adding a metafictional dimension to the narrative of crucifixion, the novels expose the way in which religious scriptures can become ideological instruments, and signal the potentially dangerous effects of the renewed significance of religion today.

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CiteScore 2018: 0.24

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