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Weapons Upon Her Body: The Female Heroic in the Hebrew Bible

Collins, Sandra Ladick (2009) Weapons Upon Her Body: The Female Heroic in the Hebrew Bible. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The established interpretations of four biblical narratives--Lot's daughters, Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba--often reduce the women to stock characters who inform our ideas about biblical Israel (Rendsburg; Frymer-Kensky) or the line of David (Menn). When read for their gender information, however, one finds women who employ individual strategies of deception and trickery, motivated by self-interest, to successfully maneuver within the system to their benefit. Such initiative is valorous: they save themselves through their own pluck and ingenuity. The title of this dissertation evokes an argument that heroic biblical women carry their essential weapons upon and within themselves.This study begins by considering the historiographical background to the Hebrew Bible. Next, the four narratives are placed in context by presenting some of the major textual theories behind Genesis through Kings, the books where these stories appear. The women are incorporated into the Bible's larger civic themes by subsuming them under the heading of "Israel," thus deflating the characters' gender and initiative. The action which marks these stories--women motivated by self-interest coupled with deception and an incidence of Wendy Doniger's "bedtrick," an instance of sexual trickery that challenges the text's power and gender dynamics--puts these characters in league with female heroes from folk tale and legend. Folklore methodologies are then applied in order to highlight their robust action. A structuralist frame adapted from Vladimir Propp and Mary Ann Jezewski is applied to several biblical stories, testing their common motifs and actions with traits established by other non-biblical female heroic narratives. Strong heroic themes are found in all four narratives. A collective approach to the four narratives then uncovers the allusions, parallelisms and language which links them together and offers a trait list for the female biblical heroic. This work concludes by critiquing previous discussions of women in the Bible as well as conjecturing on the stories' origins and their role as religious models. The dissertation argues for the efficacy of women as an analytic category as suggested by Ortner and Heilbrun and suggests how this new identification of heroic women in the Bible affects further interpretation of the Bible.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Collins, Sandra
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairShear, Adamshear@pitt.eduSHEAR
Committee MemberGross,
Committee MemberBrumble, Davidbrumble@pitt.eduBRUMBLE
Committee MemberKane, Paulakane@pitt.eduKANE
Date: 1 October 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 18 May 2009
Approval Date: 1 October 2009
Submission Date: 10 August 2009
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Religion (Cooperative Program in the study of)
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Folktale; Gender; Heroism; Scripture
Other ID:, etd-08102009-181742
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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