Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Manifold Greatness in The Big Easy

Manifold Greatness Panel 1 at NEH booth, ALA-New Orleans

Just before the 4th of July weekend, Panel 1 from the Manifold Greatness traveling exhibition made its first venture out of its home base at the Folger, and appeared at the American Library Association’s annual meeting, which took place this year in New Orleans. I was there for committee work, and to see the panel on the road.

With its strong tradition of jazz music and its  southern sensibility, New Orleans struck me as an appropriate place to showcase the King James Bible. Biblical allusion and references run deep in much southern literature, and novelists like Kate Chopin, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner have made the city of New Orleans come alive for readers. But it was the music emanating from open doors down in the French Quarter and the unrelenting flow of the Mississippi that made the real connection for me. If you’ve heard any of the spirituals popularized by African American singing groups like the Fisk Jubilee Singers or the Selah Jubilee Singers (think of the song “Go Down, Moses”), you’ve heard the influence of the King James Bible’s language in America. While it’s a bit too simplistic to say that traditional spirituals, church music, the beat of drums, and the influence of European horns converged and gave birth to jazz, jazz did arise from pieces of those traditions, and some will tell you that New Orleans was its birthplace. Whether that claim can be validated or not, New Orleans certainly has carried on the jazz tradition in a way most American cities have not.

Canal Street, New Orleans

As I stepped around discarded crawfish on the Riverwalk and heard that music coming up from the French Quarter behind me, I thought this was surely an appropriate place for a piece of Manifold Greatness to appear.

Thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities for showcasing our panel at their booth. The full traveling panel tour gets underway in early October, 2011.  Stay tuned for details on when and where you can see the show out there on the road!

Caryn Lazzuri is exhibitions manager at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

One response

  1. William Faulkner and Kate Chopin have indeed been instrumental figures in New Orleans. New Orleans is the undisputed place where jazz was born. The jazz tradition is very strong in New Orleans for sure without a doubt.

    Jazz Tune

    July 9, 2011 at 12:17 am

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