Irony and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible

Overview

Was God being ironic in commanding Eve not to eat fruit from the tree of wisdom? Carolyn J. Sharp suggests that many stories in the Hebrew Scriptures may be ironically intended. Deftly interweaving literary theory and exegesis, Sharp illumines the power of the unspoken in a wide variety of texts from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings. She argues that reading with irony in mind creates a charged and open rhetorical space in the texts that allows character, narration, and authorial voice to develop in ...

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Irony and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible

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Overview

Was God being ironic in commanding Eve not to eat fruit from the tree of wisdom? Carolyn J. Sharp suggests that many stories in the Hebrew Scriptures may be ironically intended. Deftly interweaving literary theory and exegesis, Sharp illumines the power of the unspoken in a wide variety of texts from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings. She argues that reading with irony in mind creates a charged and open rhetorical space in the texts that allows character, narration, and authorial voice to develop in unexpected ways. Main themes explored here include the ironizing of foreign rulers, the prostitute as icon of the ironic gaze, indeterminacy and dramatic irony in prophetic performance, and irony in ancient Israel's wisdom traditions. Sharp devotes special attention to how irony destabilizes dominant ways in which the Bible is read today, especially when it touches on questions of conflict, gender, and the Other.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

AJL Newsletter
"'Universes hang in the balance with every act of reading an ironic sacred text'—this first line of the first chapter is the book’s 'White Rabbit,' which instantly seduces the reader to follow the author into a newly-charted wonderland of biblical rhetoric. Highly recommended...." —Dr. Yaffa Weisman, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, CA, AJL NWSLTR (ASSN JEWISH LIB), Sept./Oct. 2009

— Dr. Yaffa Weisman, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, CA

Shofar

Carolyn J. Sharp suggests that many stories in the Hebrew Scriptures may be ironically intended. Interweaving literary theory and exegesis, Sharp argues that reading with irony in mind creates a charged and open rhetorical space in the texts that allows character, narration, and authorial voice to develop in unexpected ways. Main themes explored here include the ironizing of foreign rulers, the prostitute as icon of the ironic gaze,
indeterminacy and dramatic irony in prophetic performance, and irony in ancient Israel’s wisdom traditions. Sharp devotes special attention to how irony destabilizes dominant ways in which the Bible is read today, especially when it touches on questions of conflict, gender, and the Other.Shofar, Vol. 28.1 Fall 2009

Review And Expositor: Quarterly Baptist Theo Journal
[This book] offers a fascinating exploration of the the presence and the power of irony in the Hebrew bible.—Tony Cartledge, Campbell University Divinity School, REVIEW and EXPOSITOR :Qtly Baptist Theo Jrnl, Summer 2009

— Tony Cartledge, Campbell University Divinity School

Review And Expositor:A Quarterly Baptist Theological Journal
"[This book] offers a fascinating exploration of the the presence and the power of irony in the Hebrew bible." —Tony Cartledge, Campbell University Divinity School, REVIEW and EXPOSITOR :Quarterly Baptist Theo Jrnl, Summer 2009

— Tony Cartledge, Campbell University Divinity School

Timothy K. Beal

"Engaging, erudite, and rich with insight, Sharp's book invites us to dwell between the said and the unsaid, to 'hear word and silence together' in a way that reveals irony at the very core of biblical tradition. This is a must-read for anyone interested in literary criticism, theory, and the Hebrew Bible." —Timothy K. Beal, Case Western Reserve University

Walter Brueggemann

"Carolyn Sharp has offered a magnificent exhibit of the thickness of the Hebrew Bible. Her work is a profound and exquisite invitation to reflect on prophetic imagination in its subtle subversion." —Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

Steven Weitzman

"[Sharp] negotiates between a modernist and post—modernist understanding of the biblical text, taking authorial intent seriously while attending to textual self—subversion." —Steven Weitzman, Indiana University

Mark Minster

"Careful readers must be especially attentive to the possibilities [that] the biblical texts mean otherwise than what they say." —Mark Minster, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

IU News Room, Book Marks - Steve Hinnefeld

Author Carolyn J. Sharp, an associate professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Yale Divinity School, suggests that many stories in the Hebrew Scriptures may be ironically intended. In her new IU Press book, Irony and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible, she deftly interweaves literary theory and exegesis, while illuminating the power of the unspoken in a wide variety of texts from the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the Writings. She argues that reading with irony in mind creates a charged and open rhetorical space in the texts that allows character, narration and authorial voice to develop in unexpected ways. Main themes explored include the ironizing of foreign rulers, the prostitute as an icon of the ironic gaze, indeterminacy and dramatic irony in prophetic performance, and irony in ancient Israel's wisdom traditions. Sharp focuses on how irony destabilizes dominant ways in which the Bible is read today, especially when it touches on questions of conflict, gender and the Other. She is also the author of Prophecy and Ideology in Jeremiah: Struggles for Authority in the Deutero-Jeremianic Prose and Old Testament Prophets for Today.Steve Hinnefeld, Media Contact, IU News Room, Book Marks, March 9, 2009

A. W. Klink

Sharp (Yale Divinity School) blends theoretically dense literary criticism with careful exegesis to explore the Hebrew Bible's use of irony. The first chapter focuses on defining irony in dialogue with literary scholarship. Subsequent chapters offer exegesis of selected texts, arguing why ironic readings seem more apt to textual features then do literal or 'straight' readings that take the texts at face value. Sharp's exegeses, done in conversation with other scholarship, are a good model for exegetes in training. Commentators often pronounce the 'best reading' of a text, but Sharp admits she might find irony where none is intended. She challenges those advocating non-ironic readings to give textual clues, rather than notions of biblical authority read theologically into a literary text, to prove her wrong. This sophisticated work might be too dense for those not versed in biblical studies, but those willing to wade through its dense theoretical argumentation will be rewarded with an example of Hebrew Bible scholarship at its finest. This rich, dense work of literary scholarship is a must for serious collections of biblical studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above. -- ChoiceA. W. Klink, Duke University, August 2009

AJL NWSLTR (ASSN JEWISH LIB) - Dr. Yaffa Weisman

"'Universes hang in the balance with every act of reading an ironic sacred text'—this first line of the first chapter is the book’s 'White Rabbit,' which instantly seduces the reader to follow the author into a newly-charted wonderland of biblical rhetoric. Highly recommended...." —Dr. Yaffa Weisman, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, CA, AJL NWSLTR (ASSN JEWISH LIB), Sept./Oct. 2009

REVIEW and EXPOSITOR :Qtly Baptist Theo Jrnl - Tony Cartledge

"[This book] offers a fascinating exploration of the the presence and the power of irony in the Hebrew bible." —Tony Cartledge, Campbell University Divinity School, REVIEW and EXPOSITOR :Qtly Baptist Theo Jrnl, Summer 2009

From the Publisher
"[This book] offers a fascinating exploration of the the presence and the power of irony in the Hebrew bible." —Tony Cartledge, Campbell University Divinity School, REVIEW and EXPOSITOR :Qtly Baptist Theo Jrnl, Summer 2009

Sharp (Yale Divinity School) blends theoretically dense literary criticism with careful exegesis to explore the Hebrew Bible's use of irony. The first chapter focuses on defining irony in dialogue with literary scholarship. Subsequent chapters offer exegesis of selected texts, arguing why ironic readings seem more apt to textual features then do literal or 'straight' readings that take the texts at face value. Sharp's exegeses, done in conversation with other scholarship, are a good model for exegetes in training. Commentators often pronounce the 'best reading' of a text, but Sharp admits she might find irony where none is intended. She challenges those advocating non-ironic readings to give textual clues, rather than notions of biblical authority read theologically into a literary text, to prove her wrong. This sophisticated work might be too dense for those not versed in biblical studies, but those willing to wade through its dense theoretical argumentation will be rewarded with an example of Hebrew Bible scholarship at its finest. This rich, dense work of literary scholarship is a must for serious collections of biblical studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above. — ChoiceA. W. Klink, Duke University, August 2009

"Careful readers must be especially attentive to the possibilities [that] the biblical texts mean otherwise than what they say." —Mark Minster, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

"'Universes hang in the balance with every act of reading an ironic sacred text'—this first line of the first chapter is the book’s 'White Rabbit,' which instantly seduces the reader to follow the author into a newly-charted wonderland of biblical rhetoric. Highly recommended...." —Dr. Yaffa Weisman, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, CA, AJL NWSLTR (ASSN JEWISH LIB), Sept./Oct. 2009

Carolyn J. Sharp suggests that many stories in the Hebrew Scriptures may be ironically intended. Interweaving literary theory and exegesis, Sharp argues that reading with irony in mind creates a charged and open rhetorical space in the texts that allows character, narration, and authorial voice to develop in unexpected ways. Main themes explored here include the ironizing of foreign rulers, the prostitute as icon of the ironic gaze,
indeterminacy and dramatic irony in prophetic performance, and irony in ancient Israel’s wisdom traditions. Sharp devotes special attention to how irony destabilizes dominant ways in which the Bible is read today, especially when it touches on questions of conflict, gender, and the Other.Shofar, Vol. 28.1 Fall 2009

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Carolyn J. Sharp is Associate Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Yale Divinity School. She is author of Prophecy and Ideology in Jeremiah: Struggles for Authority in the Deutero-Jeremianic Prose; and Old Testament Prophets for Today.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction
1. Interpreting Irony: Rhetorical, Hermeneutical, and Theological Possibilities
Irony and Contemporary Methodological Debates
Method: Multiaxial Cartography
Leaving the Garden: The Wisdom of Irony
2. Foreign Rulers and the Fear of God
Pharaoh and Abimelech as Innocents Ensnared
"Am I in the Place of God?": Joseph the Pretender
Belshazzar, Darius, and Hermeneutical Risk-Taking
The Ending of Esther and Narratological Excess
3. The Prostitute as Icon of the Ironic Gaze
Tamar the Righteous
Rahab the Clever
Jael the Bold
Gomer the Beloved
Ruth the Loyal
4. The Irony of Prophetic Performance
Oracular Indeterminacy and Dramatic Irony in the Story of Balaam
Hermeneutics of De(con)struction: Amos as Samson Redivivus
Contested Hermeneutics and the Undecidability of Micah 2:12-13
Irony as Emetic: Parody in the Book of Jonah
5. "How Long Will You Love Being Simple?" Irony in Wisdom Traditions
Ironic Representation, Authorial Voice, and Meaning in Qohelet
Rereading Desire as Doublespeak in Psalm 73
6. Conclusion
Irony and Scriptural Signifying
Leaving the Garden Again: New Beginnings

Notes
Bibliography
Index of Biblical Passages
Author Index
Subject Index

Indiana University Press

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