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BEAUTY OR THE BEAST? THE GROTESQUE BODY IN THE SONG OF SONGS

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image of Biblical Interpretation

The expressions of love and desire made by the lovers in the Song of Songs include intimate and detailed poetic descriptions of the body. These often cause difficulty for interpreters because the imagery used is cryptic and seemingly nonsensical. Biblical scholars frequently express some discomfort or embarrassment over this language, yet largely maintain the view that it should be interpreted positively—as complementary and loving description. In all this, they are bowled over by their own amorous relationships with this text, which make them stutter and fumble almost as much as the Song's lovers do. This essay looks at (scrutinizes) the bodies in the Song of Songs—the physical bodies described in the Song and the textual body (corpus) with which readers engage. The literary and artistic construct of the grotesque serves—ostensibly perversely—as a heuristic for viewing bodily imagery and readerly desire. The grotesque's emphasis on the exaggerated and hybridised body and its weavings of the comic and the terrifying facilitate an investigation of the Song's gender politics and its complicated and potentially conflicting presentation of desire.

Affiliations: 1: University of Sheffield

10.1163/156851500750096363
/content/journals/10.1163/156851500750096363
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/content/journals/10.1163/156851500750096363
2000-07-01
2016-12-06

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