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Angels in America and Semiotic Cocktails of Sex, Bible and Politics

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image of Biblical Interpretation

This paper offers a reading of Mike Nichols' television adaptation of Tony Kushner's Angels in America with reference to biblical encounters with angels, whether direct, like those of Jacob and Elijah, or indirect, like that of the sick man by the Bethesda pool (John 5). Kushner's work is complex, and it addresses issues like the human condition, homosexuality, AIDS, race, religion and politics, while emphasising elements of choice and identity. For Kushner, it seems, 'angels' signify an absence rather than a presence of the divine, puzzles rather than answers (many of which refer to sex and gender identities), and turn-of-the-millennium angst. Kushner's 'Prior' character is declared a prophet by the messenger angel while dying of AIDS. Prior's encounter harbours echoes of Elijah's own encounter with an angel of the Lord while struggling with exhaustion and an apparent desire for death (1 Kings 19:1-9). Furthermore, unwilling to accept the role of prophet, Prior wrestles with the angel, and, in a similar vein to Jacob's experience (Gen. 32:22-32), this results in a ladder leading to heaven and a blessing. This paper explores the complex world of signifiers in Angels in America, while paying particular attention to the biblical elements present in the text.


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