Death and Dissymmetry: The Politics of Coherence in the Book of Judges

Overview


Combining literary criticism and feminist analysis, Death and Dissymmetry radically reinterprets not only the Book of Judges but also the tradition of its reception and understanding in the West. In Mieke Bal's account, Judges documents the Israelite culture learning to articulate itself in a decisive period of transition.

Counter to standard readings of Judges, Bal's interpretation demonstrates that the book has a political and ideological coherence in which the treatment of ...

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Overview


Combining literary criticism and feminist analysis, Death and Dissymmetry radically reinterprets not only the Book of Judges but also the tradition of its reception and understanding in the West. In Mieke Bal's account, Judges documents the Israelite culture learning to articulate itself in a decisive period of transition.

Counter to standard readings of Judges, Bal's interpretation demonstrates that the book has a political and ideological coherence in which the treatment of women plays a pivotal role. Bal concentrates here not on the assassinations and battles that rage through Judges but on the violence in the domestic lives of individual characters, particularly sexual violence directed at women. Her skillful reading reveals that murder, in this text, relates to gender and reflects a social structure that is inherently contradictory. By foregrounding the stories of women and subjecting them to subtle narrative analysis, she is able to expose a set of preoccupations that are essential to the sense of these stories but are not articulated in them. Bal thereby develops a "countercoherence" in conflict with the apparent emphases of Judges—the politics, wars, and historiography that have been the constant focus of commentators on the book.

Death and Dissymmetry makes an important contribution to the development of a feminist method of interpreting ancient texts, with consequences for religious studies, ancient history, literary theory, and gender studies.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Bal (foreign language, lit., linguistics, U. of Rochester) presents a radical reinterpretation of the Book of Judges. It startles from its first sentence: violence in the domestic lives of individual characters, particularly sexual violence directed at women. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226035550
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2008
  • Series: Chicago Studies in the History of Judaism
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 324
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author


Mieke Bal is professor of comparative literature and Susan B. Anthony Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Rochester. Her books include Lethal Love: Literary Feminist Interpretations of Biblical Love Stories and Murder and Difference: Gender, Genre and Scholarship on Sisera's Death.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments
Introduction

1. The Coherence of Politics and the Politics of Coherence
   Two Views of the Book of Judges
   How History Constructs Itself
   The Construction of a Different History
   The Coherence of Dissymmetry
   Heroes of Might and Women of Death
   Lethal Ladies
   Gender, Sex, and Dissymmetry
   Other Female Characters
   The Language of Power
2. Virginity and Entanglement
   Bath-Jephthah: The Daughter's Gift
   Negation and Denial of Womanhood
   Freud Entangled
   Love at First Sight
   Bath's Survival
3. Virginity Scattered
   Paradoxes of Virginity
   Nonvirginal Virgins, Virginal Spouses
   Between Virgin and Wife: Caught Between Men
4. Violence and the Sacred: Contribution to the Ethnography of Fatherhood
   The Raw and the Cooked
   In the Name of the Law: Proper Sacrifice
   Manoah's Failed Fatherhood
   In the Name of the Vow: Improper Sacrifice
   Bath-Jephthah versus Ben-Abraham: A Case for Separation
   Dreaming Fire: Violence without the Sacred
   The Body Became Voice, or the Reinforcement of Culture
5. The Scandal of the Speaking Body: From Speech-act to Body Language
   Speech-acts: The Word Become Flesh
   Samson's Riddle: The Word Became Woman
   The Riddle as Vow and the Vow as Riddle
   The Daughter's Body Language as a Challenge to Fatherhood
   The Mouth of the S/Word
6. The Architecture of Unhomeliness
   Oppositions
   Limits
   Dialectic
   Unhomeliness Revisited
   The Empty House Is Haunted
7. The Displacement of the Mother
   Explicit Mothers: Jephthah's and Abimelech's, Samson's and Micah's
   Explicit Mothers: Sisera's and Israel's
   Displaced Mothers: Yael
   Displaced Mothers: The Woman-with-the-Millstone
   Displaced Mothers: Delilah
   Mothering, Murdering, Making Love: Yael
   Clytemnestra's Absence 
Conclusion
   The I, the Eye, and Objectification
   The Incoherence of Coherence
   Once Upon a Time
   Once More: Body Language 

Appendix 1: A Model for Narratological Analysis
Appendix 2: Notes on Language
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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