"Ruler, Lover, Sage and Sceptic: Receptions of King Solomon" - Project Summary

The proposed research focuses on the image of King Solomon: the biblical portrait and its reception in literature and music. The project will show how the biblical narration in 1 Kings 1–11 unfolds as an ongoing process of reading and rewriting. This development already starts in the books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Songs and Chronicles. There, they adapt the image of Salomon for their own discourses, using him as a well known example, and thus take advantage of the communicative potential this figure yields. Simultaneously, the figure of Solomon offers a possibility to view current issues or problems through the eyes of a well established, authoritative figure. This interpretative process does not end with the completion of the biblical canon but is continued in the religious communities, their studies and teaching, but also in the arts. The portrait of Solomon is constantly in progress, it is an ongoing relecture. This project will select three text corpora for a detailed study of the images of Solomon: the biblical texts (1 Kings 1–11 and its innerbiblical re-interpretations) and the reception of Salomon form the 16th to 21st century . 

Beginning with the biblical texts, the (re)creation of Solomon’s image in literature and music (especially the libretti and lyrics) of the Baroque and modern era will be demonstrated. The methodology applied to the comparison of the texts will make use of narratological approaches and studies of intertextuality. The starting point for a portrait of Solomon is a detailed narratological analysis of 1 Kings 1–11. The modification of this image in other biblical books will be described as an intertextual relationship. Although the later receptions of Solomon continue this innerbiblical process, the biblical texts are considered a unity for later receptions. In this way, a text in combination with its receptions becomes the starting point for another reception and so forth. Accordingly, the intertextual analysis of the texts and their relations has to consider this intricate process.

The interpretation of these comparisons will be regarded from a double perspective: firstly, as a reception of Solomon’s image and thus an adaption and reinterpretation of this figure, and secondly, as a way to present a current situation from a specific point of view, namely Solomon’s perspective. The image of the biblical king acts as a lens through which the respective present is shown. Thereby the authority of interpretation this biblical figure is granted respectively denied will also become obvious. 

In this project, the biblical King Solomon will thus be taken as a case study focusing on the relation between reception history of biblical texts and the cultural history they shaped.


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