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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Jouissance: A Cixousian Encounter with the Song of Songs
Klangwisan, Yael Cameron

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2015 pp. xxxii + 295. €60

Series Information
Bible in the Modern World, 56

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Description: This is a remarkable book that sets out to deconstruct academic writing on the Song of Songs. It emerges at that place where biblical scholarship on the Song of Songs is subverted by French literary theory, where biblical literature escapes biblical hermeneutics, and where the ancient poetry of the Song of Songs comes face to face with the modern poetry of Hélène Cixous. The question asked is whether a poetic text like the Song of Songs can be systematized, interpreted and worked out. For as much as Jouissance is a work on the Song of Songs, it is also a work about reading poetically, challenging the notion that the Song of Songs can be read at all. In response the reader-author presents an-‘other’ kind of reading. She inhabits the text of the Song of Songs, bringing herself to it; allowing herself to be taken in its jaws, one time, and once only, and then giving it away and refusing possession. If this could be called reading, it would be live-reading: a reading of the Song of Songs that is birthed and dreamed, that joins breath with breath. This is a reading that is allowed to live. The reader is invited via the midwifery of Hélène Cixous’s poetic texts to encounter the enigmatic poetry of the Song of Songs, its creative and transformative polysemy, engendering a ‘third body’, third text, that is reflective and multivalent, inscripted with elements that are continuous and discontinuous, as well as dynamic, mythic and subversive. Read in the spirit of Cixousian literary theory, Jouissance is a visceral-corporeal experience of the transgressive and creative act of the Song of Songs that merges the limits of language with the bliss and suffering of the beyond.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Writings, Song of Songs, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches, Postmodern Literary Criticism, Poetics

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Review by Rhiannon Graybill
Published 10/30/2016
Citation: Rhiannon Graybill, review of Yael Cameron Klangwisan, Jouissance: A Cixousian Encounter with the Song of Songs, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2016).

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