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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Comedy and Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible: A Subversive Collaboration
Jackson, Melissa A.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 pp. x + 285. $125.00

Series Information
Oxford Theological Monographs

Description: 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. This book 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, this work 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 resist definition, exist amid a self/other, subject/object dichotomy, emphasize and utilize context, promote creativity, acknowledge the concept of distancing, work towards revelation, are subversive, are concerned with containment and control, and enable survival. The use of comedy as an interpretative 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.

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

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Review by Kathryn D. Blanchard
Published 2/22/2013
Citation: Kathryn D. Blanchard, review of Melissa A. Jackson, Comedy and Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible: A Subversive Collaboration, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2013).

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