Robert Bernard Alter (born 1935) is an American professor of Hebrew
and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley,
where he has taught since 1967.
1.1 Biblical studies
3 Selected works
5 External links
Robert Alter earned his bachelor's degree in English (Columbia
University, 1957), and his master's degree (1958) and doctorate (1962)
Harvard University in comparative literature. He started his
career as a writer at Commentary Magazine, where he was for many years
a contributing editor. Alter has written twenty-three books, and is
noted most recently for his translations of sections of the Bible.
Alter lectures on topics varying from Biblical episodes to Kafka's
modernism and Hebrew literature, one of his important contributions is
the introduction of the type scene into contemporary scholarly Hebrew
Bible studies. An example of a type scene is that of a man meeting a
young woman at a well, whom he goes on to marry; this scene occurs
twice in Genesis and once in Exodus, and, according to Alter,
1 Samuel and in the Book of Ruth.
Alter has served as an active member of the Council of Scholars of the
Library of Congress, and is currently president of the Association of
Literary Scholars and Critics. He was a
Guggenheim Fellow in 1966 and
1978. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences in 1986. He was a Senior Fellow of the National Endowment
for the Humanities, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in
Jerusalem, and Old Dominion Fellow at Princeton University. He is a
member of the Editorial Board of the Jewish Review of Books.
The Art of Biblical Narrative won the National Jewish Book
Award for Jewish Thought. In 2009, he was the recipient of the
Robert Kirsch Award (Los Angeles Times) for lifetime contribution to
American letters. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of
Humanities degree by
Yale University in 2010. He is a Doctor
Honoris Causa of Hebrew University (2015).
Translations of the Hebrew Bible
The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel,
1999, W.W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-32077-4
The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, 2004, W.W.
Norton, ISBN 0-393-01955-1
The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, 2007, W.W. Norton,
The Book of Genesis, translation by Robert Alter, illustrated by R.
W.W. Norton (first edition, 1996),
The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with
Commentary, 2010, W.W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-06812-9
Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and
Kings: A Translation with Commentary, 2013, W.W. Norton,
Strong As Death Is Love: Song Of Songs Ruth Esther Jonah And Daniel: A
Translation with Commentary, 2015, W.W. Norton,
The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, 2018, W.W. Norton,
Rogue's Progress: Studies in the Picaresque Novel, 1965, Harvard
The Art of Biblical Narrative, 1981, Basic Books,
Motives for Fiction, 1984,
Harvard University Press,
The Art of Biblical Poetry, 1985, Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-00431-8
A Lion for Love: A Critical Biography of Stendhal, in collaboration
with Carol Cosman, 1986,
Harvard University Press,
The Literary Guide to the Bible Edited by Alter and Frank Kermode,
Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-87531-9
The Invention of Hebrew Prose: Modern Fiction and the Language
Revolution, 1988, University of Washington Press.
Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age, 1990, W.W. Norton,
Necessary Angels: Tradition and Modernity in Kafka, Benjamin, and
Harvard University Press, ISBN 978-0-674-60663-0
Imagined Cities: Urban Experience and the Novel, 2005, Yale University
Press, ISBN 0-300-10802-8
Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible, 2010, Princeton
University Press, ISBN 0-691-12881-2
^ a b "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy
of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
^ "UC Berkeley Department of Near Eastern Literature". Retrieved
^ Alter, Robert (1981). The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York: Basic
Books. p. 60. ISBN 0-465-00427-X.
^ "John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation A Fellows Page". Archived
from the original on 2007-11-20. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
^ "Robert Alter". Washington University in St. Louis. Archived from
the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
^ "Poetic Master of Biblical Translation Receives Award". University
of California, Berkeley. 2009-04-22. Archived from the original on 9
May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
^ "Poetic Master of Biblical Translation Receives Award". Jewish
Journal. 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
^ "Citations for Recipients of Honorary Degrees at Yale University
2010". Yale News.
CV on UCBerkeley's website
Biography at Washington University in St. Louis
The Five Books of Moses review at The New Yorker
The Five Books of Moses review at The Washington Post
The Five Books of Moses review by
Alan Jacobs in First Things
The Book of Psalms review at The New Yorker
Audio interview with Robert Alter
Robert Alter's articles in the London Review of Books
Sample chapter of Alter's translation of Genesis
ISNI: 0000 0001 0918 7324
BNF: cb120587261 (data)