Carol Hamoy © 2012
In an installation entitled The Invisible Part of the Children of Israel, Carol Hamoy moves the Bible’s ancillary women out of the margins to the textual center. Cutting the names of biblical women from letterpress-printed books, she simultaneously excises them from their scriptural context to stand starkly alongside their own self-definitions, crafted from the biblical text: “I am the youngest daughter of,” “I am the wife of,” “I am the mother of.” Hamoy gives the biblical women voices but only has them use their voices to signal how they stand in relation to others. Their lives, histories, hopes, desires and motivations are still unknown to us, and so, in coming to know them as names in relationship, we are made more keenly aware of how little the Bible allowed us to know them. Hamoy’s work, featured on the cover and in Judith Margolis’s essay in the latest issue of Nashim 24: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues, is concerned with “recovering the histories of lives and women long unmentioned.” An outstanding example of the critical reception of biblical women in modern feminist art, it provides a visual entry into the subject treated by five scholarly contributors to this issue of Nashim.
In recent decades, reception history has gained an increasingly prominent place in biblical studies. Concerned not with how scripture came to be but with the influence it has come to have, this branch of the discipline attends to the ways that the Bible has been read and interpreted throughout time. Reception history examines the use of the Bible in faith communities and in secular culture; its role in the evolution of religious beliefs and practices; its impact on later social and political developments; and its recastings in post-biblical literature, art, music and film. Some of the most important work done in Bible studies and its subfields in the past 30 years has deployed feminist theory in the service of literary, anthropological, socio-historical and contextual analysis of the Hebrew Bible. However, few venues have been dedicated to feminist work in reception history. This issue of Nashim provides that venue.
The essays by Ruth Kara-Ivanov Kaniel, Inbar Raveh, Kristine Henriksen Garroway, Erica Siegel and Wendy Zierler in Nashim 24 illuminate ways in which the stories of biblical women have been read and reread, told and retold through the centuries. Each foregrounds the feminist concerns involved not only with the biblical texts it treats but also with the ways the texts have been handed on. These feminist concerns are not small ones: there is a significant political dimension to each of these readings. At the same time, the contributors offer nuanced, perceptive readings of the biblical texts themselves, and, thus, these essays represent a convergence of fields. Not only do they make a solid contribution to the reception history of the Bible and a very welcome and much-needed contribution to its feminist receptions; they also contribute notable—and delightful—literary readings of the Bible.
From the Introduction to the issue by Consulting Editor Lesleigh Cushing Stahlberg
Carol Hamoy’s works may be viewed on her website: http://carolhamoy.com/.