Barbara Ryan and Milette Shamir, eds. Bigger than Ben-Hur: The Book, Its Adaptations, and Their Audiences. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2016. xviii, 269p., ill. ISBN 978815634034. US $34.95.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, had sold more copies than any other novel. There were over 6,000 performances of the stage play adaptation between its debut in 1899 and 1920. Both the 1925 and 1959 films were blockbusters; the 1959 film won 11 Oscars (xi). Ben-Hur is an immensely important and largely neglected cultural text, and this is the first essay collection to address it from many perspectives, with particular emphasis on reception.