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.

Posts tagged “T.S. Eliot

Literature and Art and Pop Culture…Oh My!

Lancelot Andrewes. Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

On Monday,  Whitworth University hosted a panel of speakers who each discussed the Bible’s influence within the context of his or her discipline. Whitworth Professor of English Leonard Oakland traced the events that led to the primacy of the King James Bible as an influencer of literature, incorporating excerpts from Milton, Matthew Arnold, Denise Levertov, and T.S. Eliot. In the opening lines of “The Journey of the Magi,” Eliot quotes Lancelot Andrewes, a member of the KJB translation team:

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”

This passage comes from one of Andrewes’s most famous Nativity sermons (which may have been a sermon in which King James was present), as Andrewes describes the journey of the Magi to visit the infant Jesus. 

Whitworth Assistant Professor of Art Meredith Shimizu demonstrated the ways in which art is used in the Bible, and how the Bible is used in art. She indicated that while many older texts used art primarily for decorative purposes, art in modern Bibles becomes an important addition to the meaning of the text itself. Gonzaga University Professor of Religious Studies Linda Schearing discussed the ways Bible publishers use elements of popular culture to market their products, and the ways in which popular culture co-opts biblical elements – particularly the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve – in advertising and humor.

Speaking of Adam and Eve, the Pacific Northwest Inlander, a local independent newspaper, ran a story discussing the cultural impact of the King James Bible and mentioned Whitworth University’s Manifold Greatness exhibit and events. The author of the article listed some examples of pervasive Biblical images in popular culture, including an adult retail chain called Adam and Eve.  The article has the potential to reach a very different audience using unconventional methods.

Amy C. Rice is an Instructor/ Coordinator of Technical Services & Systems at Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library at Whitworth University.


T.S. Eliot and the King James Bible

Wyndham Lewis, T.S. Eliot. 1938. (c) By kind permission of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust   (a registered charity).

The Nobel Prize winning poet and playwright Thomas Stearns Eliot was born 123 years ago today, on September 26, 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri. Eliot grew up in St. Louis and went to college at Harvard. After graduate studies at Harvard, the Sorbonne, and Merton College, Oxford, he ultimately settled in England. In 1927, he became a British citizen and converted to the Anglican Church. T.S. Eliot died in England in January 1965.

Many of T.S. Eliot’s poems, including The Waste Land (1922), draw on the King James Bible, but his later works, including Ash Wednesday (1930) and The Four Quartets (1945) are especially rich in biblical language and ideas.

Learn more about Eliot and the King James Bible (as well as the KJB’s influence on eleven more writers, from John Milton to Marilynne Robinson) through the Literary Influences timeline on the Manifold Greatness website. In the case of Eliot, the timeline uses Ash Wednesday as an example of the ways in which Eliot’s language is enriched by, and sometimes borrows from, the King James Bible, citing particular passages from the poem and the Bible, as well as the Book of Common Prayer.