Theorizing Scriptures: New Critical Orientations to a Cultural Phenomenon

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Historically, religious scriptures are defined as holy texts that are considered to be beyond the abilities of the layperson to interpret. Their content is most frequently analyzed by clerics who do not question the underlying political or social implications of the text, but use the writing to convey messages to their congregations about how to live a holy existence. In Western society, moreover, what counts as scripture is generally confined to the Judeo-Christian Bible, leaving the voices of minorities, as well as the holy texts of faiths from Africa and Asia, for example, unheard. 

In this innovative collection of essays that aims to turn the traditional bible-study definition of scriptures on its head, Vincent L. Wimbush leads an in-depth look at the social, cultural, and racial meanings invested in these texts. Contributors hail from a wide array of academic fields and geographic locations and include such noted academics as Susan Harding, Elisabeth Shüssler Fiorenza, and William L. Andrews.

Purposefully transgressing disciplinary boundaries, this ambitious book opens the door to different interpretations and critical orientations, and in doing so, allows an ultimately humanist definition of scriptures to emerge.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813542041
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Series: Signifying on Scriptures
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 324
  • Sales rank: 1,150,734
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword   Charles H. Long     ix
Preface     xi
Introduction: TEXTureS, Gestures, Power: Orientation to Radical Excavation   Vincent L. Wimbush     1
The Phenomenon-and Its Origins
Scriptures-Text and Then Some   Catherine Bell     23
Signifying Revelation in Islam   Tazim R. Kassam     29
Scriptures and the Nature of Authority: The Case of the Guru Granth in Sikh Tradition   Gurinder Singh Mann     41
The Dynamics of Scripturalization: The Ancient Near East   Hugh R. Page Jr.     55
Known Knowns and Unknown Unknowns: Scriptures and Scriptural Interpretations   R. S. Sugirtharajah     62
Talking Back     67
Settings, Situations, Practices
Signifying Scriptures in Confucianism   Yan Shoucheng     71
The Confessions of Nat Turner: Memoir of a Martyr or Testament of a Terrorist?   William L. Andrews     79
Signifying Scriptures from an African Perspective   Oyeronke Olajubu     88
Transforming Identities, De-textualizing Interpretation, and Re-modalizing Representation: Scriptures and Subaltern Subjectivity in India   Sathianathan Clarke     95
Signification as Scripturalization: Communal Memories Among the Miao and in Ancient Jewish Allegorization   Sze-Kar Wan     105
Talking Back     115
Material and Expressive Representations
Conjuring Scriptures and Engendering Healing Traditions   Yvonne P. Chireau     119
Visualizing Scriptures   Colleen McDannell     128
Signifying in Nineteenth-Century African American Religious Music   Jacqueline Cogdell Djedje     134
Signifying Proverbs: Menace II Society   Erin Runions     145
Scriptures Beyond Script: Some African Diasporic Occasions   Grey Gundaker     155
Texture, Text, and Testament: Reading Sacred Symbols/Signifying Imagery in American Visual Culture   Leslie King-Hammond     167
Talking Back     179
Psycho-Social-Cultural/Power Needs and Dynamics
Differences at Play in the Fields of the Lord   Susan F. Harding     183
American Samson: Biblical Reading and National Origins   Laura E. Donaldson     195
Against Signifying: Psychosocial Needs and Natural Evil   Leonard Harris     206
Orality, Memory, and Power: Vedic Scriptures and Brahmanical Hegemony in India   Patrick Olivelle     214
Reading Places/Reading Scriptures   Wesley A. Kort     220
Taniwha and Serpent: A Trans-Tasman Riff   Jo Diamond      227
Scriptures Without Letters, Subversions of Pictography, Signifyin(g) Alphabetical Writing   Jose Rabasa     233
Talking Back     244
Signifying on the Questions
In Hoc Signum Vincent: A Midrashist Replies   Burton L. Visotzky     247
Powerful Words: The Social-intellectual Location of the International Signifying Scriptures Project   Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza     256
Racial and Colonial Politics of the Modern Object of Knowledge: Cautionary Notes on "Scripture"   Joseph Parker     268
Who Needs the Subaltern?   Ranu Samantrai     278
Talking Back     284
Bibliography     287
Notes on Contributors     299
Index     303
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