Writing and literature podcasts

The Book of John and the story of Orpheus

May 3, 2021

In this lecture I’m going to talk about the book of John in the New Testament, and the story of Orpheus as it appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The idea to discuss these books together comes from a class run by Suzanne Akbari about ten years ago at the University of Toronto – this class was an introduction to literatures that have an influence on English.

The Book of John begins by saying “In the beginning was the Word.” This sounds like language learning, doesn’t it? When you learn a language, you begin by learning the words.

In fact, though, what the author of the book of John seems to be talking about is a deeper, much more complex story. He is not just talking about learning words. He’s talking about the creation of the world and he is using a metaphor. John is saying that the ideas of the world and of Jesus appeared in God's mind before they were created. Creation is in fact a kind of mystical speech or language, then - a manifestation of God's love. Similarly, in the story of Orpheus, there is a miraculous song that is life-giving - that is - it somehow brings Orpheus's wife back to life--for a while, anyway. ...

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