First published in 1880, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ became a best-seller. The
popular novel spawned an 1899 stage adaptation, reaching audiences of over
10 million, and two highly successful film adaptations. For over a century, it has
become a ubiquitous pop cultural presence, representing a deeply powerful story
and monumental experience for some and a defining work of bad taste and false
piety for others. The first and only collection of essays on this pivotal cultural icon,
Bigger Than "Ben-Hur" addresses Lew Wallace’s beloved classic to explore its
polarizing effect and to expand the contexts within which it can be studied.
In the essays gathered here, scholars approach Ben-Hur from multiple directions—
religious and secular, literary, theatrical, and cinematic—to understand
not just one story in varied formats but also what they term the "Ben-Hur tradition."
Drawing from a wide range of disciplines, contributions include the rise
of the Protestant novel in the United States; relationships between and among
religion, spectacle, and consumerism; the "New Woman" in early Hollywood;
and a "wish list" for future adaptations, among others. Together, these essays
explore how this remarkably fluid story of faith, love, and revenge has remained
relevant to audiences across the globe for over 130 years.