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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Through the ĎIí-Window: The Inner Life of Characters in the Hebrew Bible
Leung Lai, Barbara M.

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2011 pp. xv + 194. $95.00

Series Information
Hebrew Bible Monographs, 34

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Description: It is often said that the inner life of characters in the Hebrew Bible is inaccessible to us, and that we can know little or nothing about how they felt and thought. In this study, original in both its scope and its method, Barbara Leung Lai shows how wrong that assumption is. She directs our attention to the many places where her chosen characters, Daniel, Isaiah, and Yahweh, speak of themselves, using the first-person 'I' voice, and finds those to be a unique point of entry, or window, into the interiority of the characters. To construct an interior profile of these characters, Leung Lai develops an integrated methodology of psychological exegesis, drawing upon psychological perspectives of personality, Bakhtinian views of polyphony and dialogism, current studies of emotion, self and selfhood, and the empirics of reading under the rubric of reader-response literary criticism. From these perspectives, Leung Lai can identify in Daniel two primary realms in his inner identity-seeing and emotive experiencing -- and can characterize Daniel's interior world as a world of paradoxes, of seeing without comprehending, hearing without the capacity to respond. Isaiah, on the other hand, exhibits a broad spectrum of emotions, from love, intimacy, joy and empathy to a sense of being under divine constraint, and to mourning, lament, doubt, distress, helplessness and despair. The prophet exhibits a profound sense of selfhood and subtle inner depths. The character of Yahweh is found to be most striking for its inner conflicts, with its frustrations, disappointments, pain and suffering. This groundbreaking book will stimulate many readers to a new appreciation of characterization in the Hebrew Bible.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Literature, Methods, Literary Approaches

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Review by Frank H. Polak
Published 5/28/2012
Citation: Frank H. Polak, review of Barbara M. Leung Lai, Through the ĎIí-Window: The Inner Life of Characters in the Hebrew Bible, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2012).

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