Desolation's Descendants: Feminism, Politics, and Modern Reimaginings of The Rape of Tamar

Geyer, Aubrey, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Cushman, Stephen, Department of English, University of Virginia

The Bible has generally been relegated to the religious and to the scholars of religion. While a line of scholarship reading “the Bible as literature” occupies its own niche, literary scholars tend to encounter the book as context for an allusion in later works. Meanwhile, the religious political right uses the Bible as a code for authority in popular discourse, legitimizing through its authority a cultural institution of Christianity inextricably bound up in principles of misogyny, racism, and homophobia packaged as “traditional values.” When this association is the only context for the Bible, it can easily color others’ perception of the book, even for scholars who assert the value of direct interaction with a text. Thus the work of another group of interpreters to reframe the conversation surrounding parts of the Bible has immense value for literary scholars, as well as the public conversation; it is my intention to bring their perspective to bear on certain texts of the modern western tradition which explicitly refer to the Bible, using the work of a Jewish feminist biblical criticism to reframe analysis of these works and prompt new lines of investigation and comparison. Athalya Brenner, working from a cultural framework which values the Hebrew Bible but also encourages a discourse of challenge and discussion, brings that perspective to her work; thus, she and the tradition of criticism she represents are particularly capable of balancing a sense of the cultural value of the Bible with an intense scrutiny of its flaws. By putting her work in conversation with authors in modern western literature, I find that creative readers have often identified and responded to the same “pressure points” which feminist criticism challenges and social conservatives embrace.

MA (Master of Arts)
Jewish feminist biblical criticism, Athalya Brenner, William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!, Tamar, Robinson Jeffers, Modernism, Margaret Barrington, David's Daughter, Tamar, The Bible
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