Search Results

Author: Francis Landy

Abstract

My concern in this essay is with integrative and disintegrative aspects of metaphor. Metaphor, in current theory, is less the transfer of the properties of one semantic field onto another than a process towards an ideal object, wherewith we establish our sense of identity (Lakoff, Kristeva). I draw on psychoanalytic theory, especially Kristeva and Winnicott, to discuss the origins of metaphor in the relations of mother and child, and, in particular, the growth of a "play space," composed of transitional objects, as the nucleus of culture and creativity. Metaphors are generally metaphors for others, linked on complex chains of displacement and deferment. Hence they are unstable; each metaphor will be replaced or countermanded by others. Metaphor, in its integrative aspect, seeks to make sense of a fragmented world; by connecting disparate terms, it risks nonsense. Metaphorical language, especially in Hosea, is often fractured, baffling, and claims a status verging on madness. In Hosea, it seeks mimetically both to depict social and political entropy, and to interpret it, thus reconstructing and repairing its world. The principal analyses undertaken are of the ambiguous clause, "I am/where are your words/plagues, O Death," in 13:14, and of God's nostalgic fantasy of courting Israel in the wilderness in 2:16—17. The former either subordinates God to death, as the all-encompassing reality of the book, or renders death unreal, inarticulate. The latter turns on the paradoxes of speech and silence, communicated by the pun between wilderness word

In: Biblical Interpretation
Author: Francis Landy

Abstract

The utopian vision of Isaiah 2:1-4 is a new beginning of the book, intimately related to and absolutely distinct from the first beginning in ch. 1. The two beginnings represent the two voices of the book, whose irreconcilability is its major structural problem. At the centre of the Edenic vision of Zion is a female subject and language, Torah, in whose maternal embrace all nations renounce their phallic rivalries. Torah, however, is paired with a male subject, the word of YHWH, and with the divine authority that judges the peoples. The Torah of 2:3 may be compared to the female figures of ch. 1, and to the condemnatory Torah addressed to the people in 1:10. The Torah of 2:3 is presumably equivalent to the Torah in 1:10, and adumbrates the message of that chapter. It is that to which the sons fail to listen in 1:2, and which is addressed to heaven and earth at the beginning of the book. At the same time it is an anti-Torah, since that which is rejected is conventional Torah, the sacrificial and festive system. The maternal space of Zion, which is also that of divine alimentation, has become a scene of disgust, which may be associated with Kristeva's conception of abjection. The climax of these images for Zion is the prostitute in 1:21, which exemplifies marginality. For the heterological critic, however, the prostitute is the paradigmatic marginal figure against whose exploitation the prophet protests. The figure of the prostitute is transformed into that of the widow and hence the pristine daughter of Zion and the bride of God.

In: Biblical Interpretation
Author: Francis Landy

Abstract

The article is a close reading of Isa. 40:1-11, which focuses on its function as a prologue to Deutero-Isaiah, and hence distinguished by its promise of a new beginning, and on its dependence on, and reversal of, the past, the spectral voices it seeks to repatriate. It is concerned with the secondariness of Deutero-Isaiah, and the consequent ambiguity of its messages. The voice of the poet/prophet is refracted through disembodied voices, which themselves cite other voices, before finally adopting that of the female herald, through whom the advent of God becomes manifest, only to be indefinitely deferred through metaphor and simile. In the background there is the frequently asserted relationship with Isaiah 6 as a metapoetic key to the book. Does its purview extend to Isaiah 40, and is the message of comfort conveyed by Deutero-Isaiah subverted by the incomprehensibility mandated by it? The complexities of the passage, and hence of the book as a whole, require attention to the detail of each its parts, but also to its fragmentariness, as it seeks to reconstruct a fractured reality. This is achieved in part through the emphasis on the materiality of the voice, as flesh (basar) and sonority, and as the matrix (mebasseret) of the future. The analysis proceeds from the voice of maternal comfort in vv. 1-2, to the announcement of the way and the universal theophany in vv. 3-5, to the pathos of transience in vv. 6-8, and finally to the deferred resolution in vv. 9-11. In the conclusion I discuss the relation of the text to the Freudian uncanny, the correspondence and non-correspondence with chapter 6, and the question of the relationship between historical and literary approaches.

In: Biblical Interpretation
Author: Francis Landy

Abstract

The article traces the interpretation of the flood story in children's literature, from the apparently literal versions, in which imaginative reinterpretation is transferred to the illustrations, to the non-verbal crowded scenes of Peter Spier, the Midrashic retellings of Scholem Asch and Marc Gellman, feminist readings, like those of Bach and Exum, Madeleine L'Engle's teen novel, and versions which stress the annihilatory implications, including Janisch and Zwerger's Noah's Ark. It concludes with a discussion of Ruth Kerr's How Mrs. Monkey Missed the Ark, in which the canonical text is virtually eliminated, and only appears through the cracks.

In: Biblical Interpretation
In: Biblical Interpretation
Author: Francis Landy

Abstract

This article analyses the rhetorical strategies of Isaiah 6 and their relationship to the paradoxical commission to speak so that the audience should not understand. In particular, I look at strategies of concentration and diffusion, how the chapter directs attention to the prophet and his initiatory experience, and directs attention away from the vision of God, the moment of encounter, and the consciousness of the people. I divide the chapter into three parts (w. 1-4, 5-8, 9-13), respectively characterized by divergence, convergence, and divergence again. In the third part, the rhetorical technique is more complicated, in that the centrifugal dynamic is reinforced by failed attempts at focus. Throughout, synecdoche is the preeminent instrument both for directing attention to the participants and away from them. In the last verse, there is a shift from metonymy to metaphor as the principal poetic device, and thus a transference from a narrative, historical paradigm to a diffused alterity. The chapter is thereby decentred; since it is generally regarded as a key chapter in the book of Isaiah, the book itself is unstable. I conclude by discussing the commission as a model for the reading process, and wondering whether the metaphorical equivalence of fullness and emptiness subverts the entire rhetorical structure I have delineated.

In: Biblical Interpretation
In: Retellings — The Bible in Literature, Music, Art and Film
In: Autobiographical Biblical Criticism