"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, September 6, 2021

Rape in the Bible

Growing up in Canada in the 1980s I found myself finishing high-school the same year the celebrated literary critic and biblical scholar Northrop Frye died. As someone who adored all my high-school English teachers while also having an interest in theology, I was, at their recommendation, soon checking out a couple of his books from the library. They were dense and much beyond me in some ways, but I've never forgotten his useful aphorism that the Bible is a "sprawling, tactless book." It is certainly not the kind of book your modern PR person, vaguely horrifying creatures that they are, would recommend to anyone trying to (vile phrases) "capture market share" or engage in "branding" of some new movement called "religion," least of all one that aims at being thought "respectable" to the bourgeoisie and the pious. For the Bible has rather a lot of murder, adultery, prostitution, bribery and theft alongside erotic love poetry and apocalyptic visions some overeager and uncultured psychiatrist today might diagnose as psychosis--and all that's before we get to the ostensible story about all of creation being destroyed in a flood. 

It also has horrific torture and physical abuse of innocent people along with rape and sexual violence. (Most of this is not on offer to you if your exposure to Scripture consists in listening to the delicately excised and tastefully edited bits ["pericopes"] the middle-class minders of lectionaries offer you during Sunday liturgy.) A new book, from the world's preeminent academic publisher, puts all of this horror and trauma squarely before us, where it belongs: Texts after Terror: Rape, Sexual Violence, and the Hebrew Bible by Rhiannon Graybill (Oxford UP, 2021), 248pp. 

About this book the publisher tell us this:

Texts after Terror offers an important new theory of rape and sexual violence in the Hebrew Bible. While the Bible is filled with stories of rape, scholarly approaches to sexual violence in the scriptures remain exhausted, dated, and in some cases even un-feminist, lagging far behind contemporary discourse about sexual violence and rape culture. Graybill responds to this disconnect by engaging contemporary conversations about rape culture, sexual violence, and #MeToo, arguing that rape and sexual violence - both in the Bible and in contemporary culture - are frequently fuzzy, messy, and icky, and that we need to take these features seriously. Texts after Terror offers a new framework informed by contemporary conversations about sexual violence, writings by victims and survivors, and feminist, queer, and affect theory. In addition, Graybill offers significant new readings of biblical rape stories, including Dinah (Gen. 34), Tamar (2 Sam. 13), Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11), Hagar (Gen. 16), Daughter Zion (Lam. 1-2), and the unnamed woman known as the Levite's concubine (Judges 19). Texts after Terror urges feminist biblical scholars and readers of all sorts to take seriously sexual violence and rape, while also holding space for new ways of reading these texts that go beyond terror, considering what might come after.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are never approved. Use your real name and say something intelligent.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...