Philip Roth’s Postmodern Judaism: Retold Religious Stories of Suffering in American Pastoral

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This article considers religious references and biblically informed narrative strategies in Philip Roth’s American Pastoral. In the novel, Roth complicates the divide between Judaism and atheism via a retelling of biblical narratives that contemplate human suffering and provide reason to doubt God: the story of man’s fall and the story of Job. In writing about his Adam- and Job-like protagonist, Seymore Levov, Roth critiques both faithlessness and faith and shows value in seeing beyond or between binaristic extremes. He also underscores biblical narrative’s capacity to relate with postmodern ways of thinking about history and religion. Hence American Pastoral represents Roth’s return to Judaism of a sort. Ultimately, for Roth, retelling and struggling with biblical narrative enables the negotiation of Jewish and postmodern identities, resolves suffering, and reveals means by which seemingly irreconcilable ideologies can intermingle, inform one another, and even unearth liminal spaces for commonality in art.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-347
Number of pages13
JournalCritique - Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 26 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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