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Textually violating Dinah: literary readings, colonizing interpretations, and the pleasure of the text

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journal contribution
posted on 27.04.2017, 01:29 by Penner, Todd, Cates, Lilian
The story of Dinah in Genesis 34 has been a contentious interpretative site in modern biblical exegesis. There are various positions taken on the precise meaning of both the interaction between Dinah and Shechem, as well as the brutal results that follow in the narrative. Meir Sternberg and Susanne Scholz represent two dramatically different standpoints on the narrative action. In this piece we explore their differing readings in light of the literary poetics of Roland Barthes framed through a postcolonial analytic. We begin by outlining Barthes' understanding of the text of pleasure, which underscores the seductive and erotic character of the undecideable text. We stress in particular the modern desire to close down meaning and to delimit signification in such a narrative. Sternberg's and Scholz's positions are then analyzed through this framework. We return in the final part of the study to underscore the colonizing edge evident in the attempt by interpreters to narrow meaning in Genesis 34, often by giving voice in the space of narrative absence. We argue that an appreciation of literary aesthetics may enhance a postcolonial critical engagement of both ancient texts and modern interpretations. Copyright 2007 Todd Penner and Lilian Gyde Cates. No part of this article may be reproduced by any means without the written consent of the publisher.


Date originally published



The Bible and Critical Theory, vol. 3, no. 3 (2007), p. 37.1-37.18. ISSN 1832-3391