“We May Be Through With the Past...”: Magnolia, the Exodus Plague Narrative, and Tradition History

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The phenomenon of recurring themes and traditions within the biblical corpus has attracted much scholarship (whether called traditionsgeschichte, intertextuality, or inner-biblical exegesis). This paper uses Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) as a test case for the ways traditions and parallels may or may not interact, and what that means for interpretation and ‘traditions history’. While the film has many features which strike many viewers as biblical, the author-director denies prior knowledge of these connections. The film is analyzed in terms of structure, Anderson’s claimed sources, the American cultural context of the 1990s, and its biblical resonances. After assessing the import of these observations, the tradition history of Magnolia is compared to the tradition history of the exodus in the Hebrew Bible. Within the context of attention to media contexts, the paper concludes by noting the importance of authority, canon, and multiple lines of transmission. In so doing, our understanding of the transmission of traditions is problematized, and a broader, less text-centric paradigm is called for.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReligion and the Arts
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)459-490
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 614 Theology
  • Biblical Studies
  • Methodology
  • 518 Media and communications
  • Film Studies

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