Biblical Curses and the Displacement of Tradition
Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2011 pp. x + 309. $120.00
Bible in the Modern World, 34
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Description: Brian Britt offers an intriguing perspective on curses as the focus of debates over the power, pleasure, and danger of words. Biblical authors transformed ancient Near Eastern curses against rival ethnic groups, disobedient ancestors, and the day of one’s own birth with great variety and ingenuity. Transformations of biblical curses proliferated in post-biblical history, even during periods of ‘secularization’. This study argues that biblical, early modern, and contemporary transformations of curses constitute displacements rather than replacements of earlier traditions. The crucial notion of displacement draws from Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, Nietzsche’s critical philosophy, and Benjamin’s engagement with textual tradition; it highlights not only manifest shifts but also many hidden continuities between cursing in biblical texts and cursing in such ‘secular’ domains as literature, law, politics, and philosophy. The tradition of biblical cursing—neither purely ‘religious’ nor purely ‘secular’—travels through these texts and contexts as it redefines verbal, human, and supernatural power.
Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, Prophetic Literature, Jeremiah, Wisdom Literature, Job, Literature
Review by Brian Doak
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Citation: Brian Doak, review of Brian Britt, Biblical Curses and the Displacement of Tradition, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2012).
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