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The Bible and Posthumanism

The Bible and Posthumanism

Edited by Jennifer L. Koosed
Series: Semeia Studies
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 356
  • Book Info
    The Bible and Posthumanism
    Book Description:

    What does it mean, and what should it mean to be human?

    In this collection of essays, scholars place the philosophies and theories of animal studies and posthumanism into conversation with biblical studies. Authors cross and disrupt boundaries and categories through close readings of stories where the human body is invaded, possessed, or driven mad. Articles explore the ethics of the human use of animals and the biblical contributions to the question. Other essays use the image of lions-animals that appear not only in the wild, but also in the Bible, ancient Near Eastern texts, and philosophy-to illustrate the potential these theories present for students of the Bible. Contributors George Aichele, Denise Kimber Buell, Benjamin H. Dunning, Heidi Epstein, Rhiannon Graybill, Jennifer L. Koosed, Eric Daryl Meyer, Stephen D. Moore, Hugh Pyper, Robert Paul Seesengood, Yvonne Sherwood, Ken Stone, and Hannah M. Strømmen present an open invitation for further work in the field of posthumanism.


    Coverage of texts that explore the boundaries between animal, human, and divinityDiscussion of the term posthumanism and how it applies to biblical studiesEssays engage Derrida, Foucault, Wolfe, Lacan, Žižek, Singer, Haraway, and others

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-752-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Part 1: Beginnings

    • Humanity at Its Limits
      (pp. 3-12)
      Jennifer L. Koosed

      What does it mean to be human? We are poised somewhere in between animals and divinities; aided, enhanced, and altered by technologies; changing and changed by our environments, both natural and cultural. Arguably, the Bible begins as a speciesist manifesto—only humanity is created in the image of the divine, only humanity is given dominion over the rest of creation. However, the Bible also contains multiple moments of disruption, boundary crossing, and category confusion: animals speak, God becomes man, spirits haunt the living, and monsters confound at the end. All of these stories explore the boundaries of the human in...

    • Beastly Questions and Biblical Blame
      (pp. 13-28)
      Hannah M. Strømmen

      I begin with two questions: Can animals repent? And can God repent? The first question is yet another in a long line of questions asked of the animal and its ontological status (e.g., do animals think, are they machines, can they suffer, can they feign, can they feign a feint, do they die?). The second question emerges in reading Gen 9. We are faced with the God who promises never again to blot out his creation, who offers the rainbow as a divine sign of remembrance, inscribed in the sky, God’s signature: never again such anger, never again such destruction....

    • Hauntology Meets Posthumanism: Some Payoffs for Biblical Studies
      (pp. 29-56)
      Denise Kimber Buell

      Haunting can quickly become a loose term for everything: what doesn’t sound sexier when described as “haunting”? It may not be controversial to think of texts as spectral, neither alive nor dead (see, e.g., Wolfreys 2002, esp. ix–xiv); biblical texts haunt with their overflowing potential for being activated and materialized in different ways: Matthew as the quintessential Catholic Gospel, yet also a Jewish Gospel; the Fourth Gospel encrypts Sophia traditions under the sign of the Logos and is the Gospel that has become the poster child for Christian claims to exclusivity—no one comes to the father but through...

  3. Part 2: Lions

    • The Lion King: Yahweh as Sovereign Beast in Israel’s Imaginary
      (pp. 59-74)
      Hugh Pyper

      In 2008 a political campaign advertisement appeared on YouTube, claiming to be endorsed by the White Witch of Narnia. Entitled “The Truth about Aslan,” the text of the video runs as follows:

      What do we really know about Aslan? Aslan wants to bring an end to Narnia’s winter wonderland, plunging our country into a state of global warming. Aslan is also a carnivore, putting every citizen of Narnia onhisdiet. Even his biggest supporters agree he is not safe. Aslan is on the move, but if he loved Narnia so much, why did he move away in the first...

    • Wittgenstein’s Lion and Balaam’s Ass: Talking with Others in Numbers 22–25
      (pp. 75-102)
      Ken Stone

      In his bookAnimal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory, Cary Wolfe refers to “the problem of the animal” as “a privileged site for exploring the philosophical challenges of difference and otherness more generally” (2003, 3). Wolfe argues that projects in contemporary cultural studies, which have increasingly and laudably critiqued “racism, (hetero)sexism, classism, and all other -isms,” nevertheless “almost always remain locked within an unexamined framework ofspeciesism” (1, emphasis original). The assumptions and institutions associated with speciesism¹ have had particularly problematic consequences for our ability to treat animals ethically, as a growing literature on animal...

  4. Part 3: Bodies in Crisis

    • Sick with Love: The Musical Symptoms of a Shtetl-Bound Shulammite in Waszinski’s Dybbuk
      (pp. 105-136)
      Heidi Epstein

      S. Ansky’s Yiddish playThe Dybbukand Michal Waszinski’s 1937 film adaptation thereof have been described as Jewish versions ofRomeo and Juliet,Wuthering Heights,Pyramus and Thisbe, orTristan and Isolde.¹ Given that a musical rendition of the Song of Songs figures prominently in both play and film, why does Chonen and Leah’s albeit lethal game of lovers’ hide-and-seek in the film not prompt comparisons with the Song’s tale of love? Readers’ utopic pigeonholing of the biblical love story may explain this myopia. But the central presence of the Song in musical form, as well as Fiona Black’s conceptualization...

    • Voluptuous, Tortured, and Unmanned: Ezekiel with Daniel Paul Schreber
      (pp. 137-156)
      Rhiannon Graybill

      Against the historical-critical method that still casts a long shadow across the field of biblical studies, I begin this paper with the wager that other forms of critical engagement can provide illuminating perspectives on biblical texts. In particular, I will argue that Daniel Paul Schreber’sMemoirs of My Nervous Illness(2000) offers a productive point of entry into Ezek 4–5, the chapters involving the prophet’s sign acts. First published in Germany in 1903, theMemoirsdescribe Schreber’s “unmanning” (Entmannung) by a malevolent god who is made of nerves and sexually attracted to Schreber’s body. Schreber himself was a judge...

    • The Prosthetic Friend, or Posthumanity in Lars and the Real Girl
      (pp. 157-172)
      George Aichele

      Lars Lindstrom has a problem. He is afraid of losing the people in his life, especially women. His mother died giving birth to him, and even though he is now 27, he still wears (as a scarf) the baby blanket that she had knit for him. Ever since his father died, Lars has lived alone in a tiny garage apartment next to the house in which he grew up. He shares ownership of this property with his older brother, Gus, who lives in the house with his pregnant wife, Karin. Lars is very fond of Karin, and terribly afraid that...

  5. Part 4: Fathers

    • Tripartite Anthropologies and the Limits of the Human in Valentinian Christian Creation Myths
      (pp. 175-198)
      Benjamin H. Dunning

      Valentinian Christians did not invent the notion of a tripartite anthropological division, but they used it in their various creation myths to demarcate and delimit the contours of “the human” in specific and theologically significant ways.¹ While the apostle Paul himself never explicitly triangulated his enigmatic references to choic, psychic, and spiritual bodily states in 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 15:42–49; see Dunning 2009a, 86),² these early Christians found it fruitful to read his speculations together with a platonizing philosophical tradition that envisioned the constitution of the human subject in terms of three components (most commonly, body, soul, and mind).³...

    • Gregory of Nyssa and Jacques Derrida on the Human-Animal Distinction in the Song of Songs
      (pp. 199-224)
      Eric Daryl Meyer

      Jacques Derrida despairs of finding animals among philosophers. “Thinking concerning the animal, if there is such a thing, derives from poetry. There you have a thesis” (2008, 7; cf. 40). The poetic imagination, in contrast to the philosopher’s, has from time to time had the courage to stand in the gaze of the animal and to write as onewho is seen. Guided by Derrida’s intuition about poetic discourse, I begin this essay in an ancient piece of erotic poetry in which animal metaphor features prominently—Solomon’s Song of Songs. This book’s place in the canon was a puzzle and...

  6. Part 5: Sacrifice

    • What Would Jesus Eat? Ethical Vegetarianism in Nascent Christianity
      (pp. 227-246)
      Robert Paul Seesengood

      To begin, it is always difficult for me to describe the feeling of flesh in words. Flesh is too visceral for words; it is image, smell, taste, and touch. It is my left hand, resting on the still warm carcass, my right pressing a blade against it; it is the moment before the cut, the pressure of the skin pushing back against the blade, surprising in both its firmness and its pliability, surprisingly like the flesh of my own stomach or thigh as I wipe my hands free of blood.

      On a November day, midmorning, the full sun emboldened by...

    • Cutting up Life: Sacrifice as a Device for Clarifying—and Tormenting—Fundamental Distinctions between Human, Animal, and Divine
      (pp. 247-298)
      Yvonne Sherwood

      Humankind has expended a great deal of energy on sacrifice—not just the rites and practices of sacrifice, which constitute the smallest proportion of our labors, but all the texts of sacrifice (which often interpret the transformation from blood to ink as a sign of becoming more civilized, more fully “man”). From Leviticus toKiddushinto myriad theories of sacrifice from Hubert and Mauss to Girard and Bataille,¹ the massive archive—or textual offering up—on “sacrifice” seems to amply corroborate Bataille’s theory of sacrifice as lavish expenditure and excess. It is in this sacrificial spirit of nonmoderation that I...

  7. Part 6: Endings

    • Ruminations on Revelation’s Ruminant, Quadrupedal Christ; or, the Even-Toed Ungulate That Therefore I Am
      (pp. 301-326)
      Stephen D. Moore

      The Lamb has long been the elephant in the room of Revelation scholarship. What does it mean—theologically, philosophically, ecologically—that the figure introduced as “like a Son of Man” (homoion huion anthrōpou) in Revelation’s inaugural vision (see 1:13) has ceased to be anthropomorphic by the time we reach Revelation’s throne room scene (“I saw … a Lamb [arnion]”—5:6)? What does it mean that Revelation’s Christ moves through most of the subsequent narrative not on two legs but on four? By and large, the burgeoning body of ecocritical and ecotheological work on Revelation¹ is oddly silent on this highly...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 327-330)
    Jennifer L. Koosed

    Perhaps this is what it all comes down to: how to kill and how to die. Life is self-consuming. Even those who are the most radically committed to moving through this world without killing—a vegan, a Jain—still must decide what constitutes “life” and relegate all other creatures to the category “killable.” And in the desire not to kill, sometimes one actually increases the world’s store of suffering. The Bible instructs its readers not to kill but then commands the killing of certain animals at certain times, certain people for certain crimes, and certain other people simply for being...

  9. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 335-340)
  10. Index of Authors
    (pp. 341-348)