A Hebrew Bible/Old Testament scholar looks at the Bible and culture…


Changing (?) Definitions of Rape

I just published a new session in my Reading the Bible as an Adult project:  Bathsheba, Tamar, Absalom, Solomon:  David’s Family Curse? The entry deals primarily with the trans-generational dynamics of 2 Samuel 11-18, how the themes of David’s later life spill over into those of his family.  I talk about David’s fukú , the language that Junot Díaz  uses in his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao to describe a family curse. But there’s a lot more to discuss  in these stories of David and his children, including the way that different people and different cultures think about rape.

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It's Not Just P.C. Theory: Critique Matters to People's Real Lives

In the May 29, 2009 issue of The Chronicle Review, two articles underscored the power of literature to transform students’ lives.  In “Life Stories Unlocked by Literature,” Margot Mifflin invited us to witness a female haunted by rape find strength in reading Alice Sebold’s Lucky and a male abused by a babysitter affirm his sexuality in response to Shelley Jackson’s “My Body: A Wunderkammer.”  In “Great Books 2.0,” David Clemens introduced us to Joshua, jazzed up on the Great Books, convinced they are the “real deal.”  In the classics, Clemens proclaims, students hungry for meaning feast on perennial questions of human existence-a repast far more wholesome and satisfying than the empty calories of an educational diet of multiculturalism and pop culture.

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Family Violence in Poetry and Prophetic Metaphor

 I just finished reading a book of poems by Lucille Clifton: Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems. BOA Editions, 2000).

Clifton’s poems sometimes include humor, but they almost always speak the hard truth about the brokenness of the world.  In this collection, she writes powerfully about the death of her brother, dialysis, cancer, lynching, menopause, and racism.  The poems are short with no capitalization, but they are not small things.  Her words burn on the page. Continue reading