Friday, 13 May 2016
Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame,
Andre Lefevere, Routledge Publications, 1992, page 112
Our last quotation from Lefevere's work makes an important point about what happens when things move on.
Once a culture has arrive at a canonised image of its past, it tends to edit out those figures and features of that past that do not fit that image. An analysis of this process shows, once again, that the "intrinsic" value of a work of literature is by no means sufficient to ensure its survival. That survival is ensured at least to the same extent by rewritings. If a writer is no longer rewritten, his or her work will be forgotten.
An example from early Church history is the way that Marcion attempted to edit out the Hebrew Scriptures (and quite a lot of the New) in order to fit his image of what the Church ought to look like. Although his attempt was declared to be heretical, aspects of it survive today in the form of Replacement Theology or supercessionism - the (wrong, heretical) idea that the Church has replaced Israel as the chosen people of G-d.
A colleague of mine is researching the way that Sunday School curricula "rewrite" the Bible stories of the Old Testament for teaching "safe" material to children in church contexts. Although that rewriting can be very wishy-washy, partial and anaemic, should we at least be grateful that rewriting is going on, rather than that the stories of Abraham and Moses are simply being edited out and forgotten?