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  • 1 Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University, Dana Palmer House 201, 16 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
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World literature is often defined in terms of the circulation of works out into languages and cultures beyond their original homeland. But it is also possible to consider an opposite mode of literary worldliness, which occurs when writers draw on foreign literatures in order to intervene within their own culture. This article takes the example of the biblical Book of Job, based on a Babylonian model which it neither imitates nor parodies (the more usual modes of relation of biblical writers to the literary productions of the larger imperial cultures around them). Instead, the poet of the Book of Job selectively draws on Babylonian tradition in order to open up a new mode of understanding of the divine amid the crisis of the Babylonian exile, neither rejecting the surrounding culture nor assimilating to it, portraying a just but unknowable God who has characteristics of a benevolent Mesopotamian tyrant.

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