Campus News

Willis Barnstone '48, H'81 Authors New Testament Revision Restoring Jesus' Jewish Heritage

Story posted December 28, 2009

Acclaimed poet and scholar Willis Barnstone, a member of the Class of 1948 and a 1981 honorary degree recipient, and his latest book, The Restored New Testament — A New Translation With Commentary, Including the Gnostic Gospels Thomas, Mary, and Judas (Norton, 2009), are the subject of an article in the December 25, 2009, edition of The San Francisco Chronicle.

An earlier book, Life Watch, garnered Barnstone his fourth Pulitzer Prize nomination, along with nominations for the National Book Award and the National Book Critic's Circle Award. It contains a poem about writing his first poem in Hawthorne Hall while an undergraduate at the College in the 1940s.

The book, a revision of the New Testament, seeks to restore the lyricism and mysticism of the Jesus story, and undo centuries of mistranslation designed to obscure the Jewish identity of the carpenter from Nazareth.

Barnstone says he hopes his book can unite readers regardless of their theological beliefs.

Read the article.

Barnstone, who was born in Lewiston, Maine, and raised in New York City, now lives in Oakland, Calif. Following graduation from Bowdoin, he went on to the Sorbonne, SOAS, Columbia and Yale.

He taught in Greece at the end of the civil war (1949-51) and in Buenos Aires during the Dirty War. During the Cultural Revolution he went to China, where he was later a Fulbright Professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University (1984-1985).

He is the former O'Connor Professor of Greek at Colgate University and Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University.

Barnstone's other publications include Modern European Poetry (Bantam, 1967), The Other Bible (HarperCollins, 1984), Poetics of Translation: History, Theory, Practice (Yale, 1993), Funny Ways of Staying Alive (New England, 1993), The Secret Reader — 501 Sonnets (New England, 1996), With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires (Illinois, 1993), Algebra of Night: Selected Poems 1948-1998 (Sheep Meadow, 1999), The Apocalypse (New Directions, 2000), Life Watch (BOA, 2003), Border of a Dream: Poems of Antonio Machado (Copper Canyon, 2004), The Gnostic Bible (Shambhala, 2004) and We Jews and Blacks: Memoir with Poems (Indiana, 2004).

A Guggenheim fellow, Barnstone has been the recipient of many awards over the years, including NEA, NEH, Emily Dickinson Award of the Poetry Society of America, W.H. Auden Award of the New York State Council on the Arts, the Midland Authors Award, Book of the Month selections in 1972, 1989, 2002, 2004, and Pulitzer Prize nominations in 1960, 1997, 1999, 2003.

His work has appeared in magazines including APR, Doubletake, Harper's, The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, Poetry, The New Yorker and The Times Literary Supplement.

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