Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Anthony Jarrells

Abstract

Elizabeth Singer Rowe’s Biblical epic The History of Joseph (1736), which dramatizes the events of Genesis 37-45, stands out in her oeuvre not only generically—it is her only long narrative poem—but because of how rarely God appears as an intervening agent or subject of narrative attention. Rather than highlight God’s splendor by imbuing Scripture with poetic embellishment, as is her wont, Rowe’s language downplays God’s hand in a famously Providential story (Genesis 50.20). While God shows up most often as an entity to beseech or a cultural token to reference, pagan deities govern the plot’s action; Rowe relishes in extravagant portrayals of them and their haunted lairs; she establishes the thoroughly secular heroine Semiramis as a type of Joseph in a 300-line inset. This thesis—the first work solely dedicated to The History of Joseph as a narrative—explores Rowe’s curious diminishment of God’s power and presence in Joseph’s story and considers the theology that this strange poem might construct.

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