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Lecture 5 Clements 1 School of Arts and Letters, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies Summer 2009 AK/HUMA 1780 6.0A Stories in Diverse Media ANNOUNCEMENTS: Sit tight on the Discussion Groups. I will announce when they will be up and running once the course enrollment list is solidified. Generate answers to the questions at the end of the lecture in a word-processor and save them for when the Discussion Groups begin, hopefully, by this Thursday (June 24/09) If you haven't already, please complete the online Academic Integrity Tutorial Quiz as mentioned in Lecture 1. You can find it at this address: On to Salome and the femme fatale stereotype. Biblical and Historical Versions of the Salome Story The relationship between the biblical stories of Salome (unnamed in the Bible) and Oscar Wilde's play "Salom" (note the French version of her name) gives us another good example of the adaptation process that we've been calling "borrowing." As with O Brother, Where Art Thou? there is a substantial gap between the source material of the Bible and Wilde's play. Unlike The Odyssey, however, the source texts for our next two stories, about Salome and Pygmalion, provide very little material for the adapted versions. In these two cases, the initial texts supply very few events, very little character development, and minimal description in terms of the setting, time, and place. Source texts such as these, therefore, leave a lot of room for the second writer, or the adaptor, to create new material, giving Wilde, in this case, the advantage of a lot of room to create his particular version. Lecture 5 Clements 2 However, the Bible also brings with it several difficulties for the adaptor. Wilde, for example, had to consult several texts to compile his version of the Salome story, not only the different texts within the Bible (from the different gospels), but also accounts outside of the Bible. As you will note from the supplemental reading, one of the sources that Wilde used included the Antiquities of the Jews, written by the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus. See Lecture Summary 5 Slide 2. Josephus, who was born in 37 CE and died in 101 (approx. 70 years after the death of the historical Jesus), wrote a history of the Jewish people from Creation up to his own time period, 66 years after the start of the Common Era. Josephus's history is often called upon as an historical supplement to the New Testament Biblical narratives because he documents the times preceding Jesus's birth, during his lifetime, and after his death. Josephus is also important to Christian theology because he is one of the most reliable sources for what Judaism was like during this time period. Josephus gives us an especially important piece of information for this story that isn't found in the New Testament gospels. He gives us the name of Herodias's daughter: Salome. Additionally, he provides another piece of information in terms of the story, something that is at the crux of the biblical accounts. Josephus claims that Salom's mother, Herodias, "took upon her to confound the laws of our country, and divorced herself from her husband while he was alive, and was married to Herod, her husband's brother." And so the scandal (and the story) begins. Herodias commits two crimes in Josephus's account, not only does she divorce her husband, but, and here's the kicker, she marries his brother. This, as you read, is considered an act of incest and it is also of great concern to another important figure in Lecture 5 Clements 3 our story, John the Baptist, or John the Dipper, to translate the Greek literally! John the Baptist is important in the four New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because he acts as a bridge between the story of Israel and the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is considered to be the forerunner of the Messiah, paving the way, so to speak. His main concern is to get people to repent for their sins because of the coming of the Christ. One of the rituals of repentance in which John invites people to partake is, not surprisingly given the name, baptism, whereby one is immersed in water as a symbolic gesture to start life anew, to be reborn. But he was no conservative prophet; he caused a ruckus basically everywhere he went. I mention these important facts concerning John because they speak to the social and political undercurrent of both the Biblical narrative and Wilde's play. Ultimately, John poses a threat to Roman rule. The Romans, of course, were the ones with the political clout at the start of the Common Era in the area of Palestine. They established imperial control over the territory in 63 BCE by ruling through puppets, the most important of which was Herod the Great (our Herod's Dad). So, as you probably noticed in Wilde's depiction, our Herod is also a puppet of the Roman Empire, a Tetrarch, meaning he was one of four subordinate rulers. His domain was Galilee. The effect of imperial control put great strains on the Jewish population, to say the least. Combined with internal divisions among Jewish groups and religious leaders, the political climate at the start of the Common Era was significantly unstable. Wilde effectively communicates some of the tensions involved in the political climate when Herod, Herodias, and their many and multi-cultural dinner guests are introduced. After hearing John the Baptist's voice boom out from the cistern "Behold the
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