Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Scripted Bodies: Reading the Spectacle of Jacob Wrestling the Angel

Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Scripted Bodies: Reading the Spectacle of Jacob Wrestling the Angel

Article excerpt

The Bible writes our flesh, its meanings and possibilities. But writing is nothing if it is not read, and the distinction between writing and reading opens a space for movement, for a field of energy. This, indeed, is the field of religion, in which believers are bound (religare) over to the reading, again and again (relegere), of the texts by which they are both bound and set free. (Loughlin, 2006, p. 381)

Struggling with the Corpus

In what is now a well rehearsed move in postmodern discourse, "there is nothing outside the text" (even though, in scenes that mirror some of the quests of modern biblical scholarship, there is much debate over what Jacques Derrida "originally meant" by his statement "il n'y pas de hors-texte"); our perceptions of representation and signification are characterized by what Derrida calls a "general writing." If a "general writing," and, for the purposes of this article, biblical texts in particular, can be said to communicate the meanings and possibilities of corporeal, enacted and performed bodies, how are "we" (2) to understand the textual constructions of divine and human male bodies that men and women are bound to read again and again? If biblical depictions of male patriarchal power have had enormous cultural influence across the years in which the bible has been sourced as an authoritative text (with authoritative interpretations), then it is not simply believers and bible readers who are bound into a intertextuality of which this bible is part and who are forced to stretch the limits and ligatures of the influence of these particular texts. Feminist scholar and poet, Alicia Ostriker, understands her revisionary work as trying to locate herself "with respect to the looming male tradition of religion, myth, philosophy, and literature" (1993, p. 27) highlighting that the bible "is the ultimate authority for so many other texts; and, what is more, we can observe within biblical narrative the actual process of patriarchy constructing itself. We watch the Law of the Father gathering its material and building itself up, bit by bit, layer upon layer" (1993, p. 121). However, like any artefact that is constructed from that strangest and most potent of materials, language, there are points of articulation where structures break down and the materials can be arranged otherwise to produce a different reading.

This article argues that by reading the spectacle of Jacob's struggle with his adversary in Genesis 32:22-32 (3) in particular, we might explore how the difficulties of representing and inscribing human and divine male bodies are also bound up with certain scriptings of what these bodies can mean. This is not to simply map biblical characters onto modern masculinities, but to focus on the "technologies of the self" that are involved in reading in the present, a type of "pre-posterous" reading (Bal, 2008) of these biblical patriarchs who inhabit a textual world that has historically been a part of constructing our conceptions of how social, political and theological textualities structure everyday life. Biblical sources have also influenced the representations of these realities. I am concerned with how such representations are formed by interpretation and, if such interpretations are to become more androcritical (after but extending the work of Daniel Patte, 1995), this includes the necessary acknowledgment of a poetic-ethic double-bind in deconstructive reading and retelling. By demonstrating that poetic retellings of biblical narratives enact an artifice that operates in the dynamic space between reading and writing we are more able to foreground the poesis of interpretation. In this way, the process of interpretation is always a double-move; it both frames and constitutes the object that is being interpreted, and, in relation, constitutes the subject as interpreter. This shall be further explored in Mieke Bal's concept of "envisioning" as interpretation below. However, this is not to argue for an essentialist nature for either subject (interpreter) or object (biblical text). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.