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The Big Sleep: Strategic Ambiguity in Judges 4-5 and in Classic film noir

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Ambiguity is a driving force of the narrative world of film noir. It is expressed through unconventional characterization as well as innovative and excessive visual and narrative techniques. Through all of the gaps and unanswered questions film noir poses, viewers are engaged in an intellectually demanding process. The book of Judges makes similar demands of its readers and shares a number of the concerns found in film noir, such as: anxiety over constructs of masculinity and normality, interest in ritualized violence, fetishization of women, existential deliberation over character, resignation to the fate of the individual (and by extension the nation), withering acknowledgment of the façade of material progress—all expressed with indeterminate narrative modes that frustrate attempts at making meaning. My argument in particular is that film noir and the Jael episode (Judg. 4; 5:24–31) share a remarkably similar rhetoric of ambiguity, and that examination of their correspondences, by an evidence-based comparison, can lead to fruitful hypothesis regarding the social context from which the Judges stories emerged.

Affiliations: 1: University of Chester

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