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Dancing on the minefield : feminist counter-readings of women in Proverbs 1-9

This thesis presents a series of feminist counter-readings of the two women in Proverbs 1-9: Woman Wisdom and the Strange-and-Foolish Woman. It therefore seeks to both discern and challenge the traditional male scholarship's understandings of both women, and, more importantly, to read both as women rather than as stereotypes. Most readings of the text construe Woman Wisdom as a personification or a hypostasis, and the Strange-and-Foolish Woman as a stereotype or series of stereotypes of promiscuous and assertively sexual women. Few scholars focus on the significance of these representations of women as women. My feminist counter-reading methodology involves a triple hermeneutic-suspicion, resistance, rereading and representation. This hermeneutic is also informed by an insistently embodied reading practice. My methodology draws on various fields of feminist scholarship, including feminist literary theory and film theory, feminist hermeneutics and feminist biblical criticism, feminist theories of embodiment, and feminist epistemology. In addition, I use contemporary ideas relating to translation to re-translate key terms integral to the focus of my thesis. Each chapter of the thesis focuses on a site of contestation-both within biblical scholarship and within the text. As a piece of feminist scholarship, this thesis both works within the constraints of the traditional understanding of a thesis and contemporary 'malestream' scholarship, and pushes gently at the boundaries, seeking to make spaces for different ways to approach, and write, theses. The first four chapters focusing on the textual analysis are presented as being in a constellation relationship with each other and the later textual analyses. Using a variety of strategies, originating in a variety of feminist disciplines, I have demonstrated that both Woman Wisdom and the Strange-and-Foolish Woman can be read as representations of real women. In each case, their representations-in-the-text are partial, designed to categorise them in the interests of the male system (malestream), and to keep them separate from each other. I also demonstrate, however, that both women resist these attempts at patriarchal and androcentric colonisation. Woman Wisdom, in assertively building her own house within the malestream, claims her own space for her alternative way of wisdom in the male-dominated world of the text. Using her location 'inside' the system to gain access to the young future leaders-both men and women-she disseminates her alternative way with the apparent approval of the system. Contrary to the view of most scholars, she does not speak with the voice of the patriarchal system-she has her own style, and her own message, which she shares freely with all who accept her invitation to her feast of wisdom. The Strange-and-Foolish Woman more openly resists malestream attempts to control and confine her. Like Woman Wisdom, she resorts to resistance strategies to access her audience: she masquerades as a vamp to attract her audience and poke fun at the foibles of the 'wise' old men who denigrate her sexuality but secretly lust after her body. She, too, is a woman who defines herself, and her way of being sexual, and seeks to make a space for an alternative way of being woman, and celebrating her sexuality, in the world of the text.

thesis (PhD)--University of South Australia, 1999
CreatorsWurst, Shirley J J
Source SetsAustraliasian Digital Theses Program
Detected LanguageEnglish
Rights© 1999 Shirley J J Wurst

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