Comedy and Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible: A Subversive Collaboration
Comedy is both relative, linked to a time and culture, and universal, found pervasively across time and culture. The Hebrew Bible contains comedy of this relative, yet universal nature. Melissa A. Jackson engages the Hebrew Bible via a comic reading and brings that reading into conversation with feminist-critical interpretation, in resistance to any lingering stereotype that comedy is fundamentally non-serious or that feminist critique is fundamentally unsmiling. Dividing comic elements into categories of literary devices, psychological/social features, and psychological/social function, Jackson examines the narratives of a number of biblical characters for evidence of these comic elements. The characters include the trickster matriarchs, the women involved in the infancy of Moses, Rahab, Deborah and Jael, Delilah, three of David's wives (Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba), Jezebel, Ruth, and Esther. Nine particularly instructive points of contact between comedy and feminist interpretation emerge: both (1) resist definition, (2) exist amidst a self/other, subject/object dichotomy, (3) emphasise and utilise context, (4) promote creativity, (5) acknowledge the concept of distancing, (6) work towards revelation, (7) are subversive, (8) are concerned with containment and control, and (9) enable survival. The use of comedy as an interpretive lens for the Hebrew Bible is not without difficulties for feminist interpretation. While maintaining an uncomfortable, even painful, awareness of the hold patriarchy retains on the Hebrew Bible, feminist critics can still choose to allow comedy's revelatory, subversive, survivalist nature to do its work revealing, subverting, and surviving.
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1 An Introduction to Comedy
Lots Daughters Rebekah Leah Rachel Tamar
Shiphrah and Puah Moses Mother and Sister Pharaohs Daughter
5 Deborah and Jael
Michal Abigail Bathsheba
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Abigail Abishag argues Aschkenasy Athalya Brenner audience Barak Bathsheba biblical text Boaz book of Esther Book of Judges Book of Ruth boundaries Canaanite chapter characters Clines comedy comedy and feminist comedy’s comic Commentary context David Deborah deception Delilah Delilah and Samson Exodus Exum farce father feminist feminist critique feminist-critical Fewell fool foreign Genesis Gunn Haman Hebrew Bible hero humour incongruity Interpretation irony Israel Israelite Jacob Jael Jael’s Jezebel John Knox Press joke Joshua JSOT Judah king king’s laugh laughter Linafelt Literary Lot’s daughters male Michal midwives Morreall Moses Nabal Naomi narrative Nazirite Niditch NRSV offers Old Testament patriarchal perspective Pharaoh Philistines plot Queen Michal’s Story Rachel Radday Rahab revealed reversal role Ruth’s Samson Samuel Saul scholars Semeia sexual Sheffield Academic Press Sisera social society spies status subversive survival Tamar Telling Queen Michal’s teraphim Tragedy translation trick trickery trickster verse violence Whedbee woman women word wordplay Yahweh