Well, I should have posted this a couple of weeks ago, but conference organizing takes its toll apparently. I came down with a cold a few days before our conference at Ohio State (May 5-7) and I’ve been struggling with it ever since.
The conference, The King James Bible and its Cultural Afterlife, was a great success, though, and all the participants I’ve heard from (we had about 150) enjoyed themselves and the lively exchange of ideas. We had eminent literary scholars from across the world: New Zealand, Belgium, Taiwan, England, Scotland, and across the United States. Universities represented included Oxford, Glasgow, Leuven, Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand), Yale, Georgetown, William and Mary, Maryland, Purdue, Rutgers, and many more. David Norton (author of The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today) gave the keynote address, which focused on biblical language and allusions in Jane Eyre. The plenary panels offered superb papers by scholars of the Reformation, African American literature, English Romanticism, Milton, Gay and Lesbian Studies, and biblical scholarship. Many of the presenters–Stephen Prickett, Jason Rosenblatt, Adam Potkay, Gergely Juhasz, Katherine Bassard, Heather Walton, Michael Wheeler–were contibutors to The King James Bible after 400 Years, but they were joined by Gordon Campbell (Bible: The Story of the King James Bible, 1611-2011), David Jasper (The Sacred Body: Asceticism in Literature, Religion, Art, and Culture), Leland Ryken (The Legacy of the King James Bible), and many others. These books were on display outside the conference theater, along with the book for the Folger-Bodleian exhibitions, Manifold Greatness, a copy sent to us hot off the press.
Another feature of the conference was a reading and talk by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Edward P. Jones. He read passages from his novel The Known World as well as his short story collections about characters in Washington, DC, all chosen to highlight the influence of the King James Bible. He spoke afterward of how the minimalism of the Old Testament narrative had shaped his own style, avoiding unnecessary adjectives and adverbs and minimizing authorial intrusions.
Not only was the discussion outstanding over the several days, but the weather weirdly cooperated with us, giving us the only sunshine Columbus had seen for many weeks.
Hannibal Hamlin, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, is co-curator of the Manifold Greatness exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
John Rainolds, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford from 1598 to 1607, was the leader of the Puritan delegation to the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. It was at this conference that Rainolds suggested to King James I that there should be a new translation of the Bible.
Rainolds was born on September 29, 1549, in Pinhoe in Devon. His father was a farmer, and his five brothers all studied at Oxford University. In 1572 Rainolds became reader in Greek at Corpus Christi, where he had studied as an undergraduate, and in 1588 he moved to the Queen’s College, where he lectured in theology. Amongst his surviving papers in Oxford are his lecture notes on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and notes he made concerning the study and interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures.
Rainolds was a member of the First Oxford company that translated the Old Testament prophets for the King James Bible. This company met weekly in Rainolds’s lodgings in Corpus. Despite being afflicted by failing eyesight and gout, Rainolds continued the work of translation to the last, even being carried into the meeting room. He died on Thursday 21 May 1607, and was remembered as a leading figure of reformed theology, an accomplished Hebraist, and a man of remarkable learning. Rainolds is buried in the chapel of Corpus Christi.
Helen Moore is Fellow and Tutor in English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and chair of the curatorial committee for the ‘Manifold Greatness’ exhibition at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
This post first appeared on the Folger Education blog, “Making a Scene” and I thought I would share it here. It is Teacher Appreciation Week, after all, and Manifold Greatness has many rich resources that teachers can benefit from.
Just as William Shakespeare’s life and work attract myths and speculation, the King James Bible has been privy to a number of legends and half-truths in its 400-year history. And like the works of Shakespeare, the King James Bible has had a profound influence on English-speaking peoples across the globe. The creation and influence of this remarkable book is the topic of a new exhibition and website, Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible, recently launched by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.
The Manifold Greatness website offers rich resources for educators, including content designed specifically for elementary and middle school audiences. Students can explore key questions surrounding the King James Bible, including what Bibles were used previously, how translators worked together to create the King James Bible, and how this remarkable text continues to be a part of our daily culture.
Explore interactive content to get activity ideas for your classroom. The “how to” videos, including the one above, show you and your students how to make ink, quill pens, quartos, and other materials that relate to life during the period the King James Bible was being produced. For older students, you might visit the “Literary Influences” timeline to see how language from the King James Bible has impacted subsequent works, including the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the novels Jane Eyre, The Grapes of Wrath, and Song of Solomon.
Curious about a few myths associated with the King James Bible?
We won’t spill all of the beans right now, but it’s true that:
1. The King James Bible was not the first translation of the Bible into English.
2. King James did not personally translate any part of the text.
3. Shakespeare did not help to translate the King James Bible. As exhibition curator Hannibal Hamlin says in a previous blog post on this topic, “No way, no how.”
Amy Arden is a Communications Associate at Folger Shakespeare Library and developed the Manifold Greatness Family Guide and online content for children.