Josephus’s Lamentations in the Judean War: Body, Emotional Resistance, and Gender

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Françoise Mirguet Arizona State University Tempe, AZ USA

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In the Judean War’s proem, Josephus professes his need to lament, an atypical statement in Hellenistic and Roman historiography. This article explores his lamentations, in the proem and the work, as they engage body, emotion, gender, and power. It examines the constructions that laments receive in Josephus’s diverse literary and cultural backgrounds—biblical and early Jewish literature as well as ancient Greek and Roman traditions. It also considers how the War reflects these constructions. Josephus’s laments, staging his wailing voice and suffering body, suggest self-abasement. However, his protagonists’ laments often convey resistance and rebellion, a traditional function of laments; they thus shed a more political light on the proem. Josephus masculinizes the typically feminine lamenter-qua-protester figure, perhaps to avoid feminizing his own role. This article interprets Josephus’s laments as an embodiment of his carefully subversive account and as emotional resistance against the Roman power.

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