Oskar Kokoschka's Phantasmagorical Vision: The Book of Job Transmogrified


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The Book of Job, the poetic drama that the editors of the Bible have put after Proverbs and before the Song of Songs, has been throughout the centuries a fertile source or suggestive framework for writers' imaginations. Perhaps the most intensely precise and incisive interpretation, however, was achieved by William Blake in his singular illustrations, the first edition of which dates from 1825. In Blake's vision, according to S. Foster Damon, "the whole drama is enacted in Job's soul. His wife is part of him, his inspiration, his feminine aspect (which Blake elsewhere called an Emanation), who shares his errors. His children are his creations, his deeds, his joys. The accusing friends are also part of him, for they speak for his submerged sense of guilt. His devil is the Accuser within him, and even his God is his own creation, his own ideal, made in his image, his Selfhood, and not the true God at all."1 In this sadly retrogressive century, the Job story (with radically different implications than those which prevailed in Blake's day) has become especially suitable and meaningful as a trenchant theme for literary treatment and interpretation. For from 1917, when Oskar Kokoschka's Hiob2 was first performed in Dresden, to the present day, the unspeakable suffering and degradation of Job has become the world's. This span of fifty-odd years could not have produced more massive upheavals, or bestiality more beyond human reason's power to grasp. Job's anguished cry has indeed been transformed into a worldwide outburst.

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