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Terrible Silence, Eternal Silence: A Feminist Re-Reading of Dinah's Voicelessness in Genesis 34

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image of Biblical Interpretation

This article explores the theme of Dinah's narrative silence in the text and interpretive traditions of Genesis 34. Although Dinah's rape is of central importance to the narrative development of this text, she remains throughout the story a marginal character. Her experience is contextualized by the author within a strictly patriarchal ideological framework, thereby denying her a voice with which to articulate and focalize her thoughts, feelings, and pain. Furthermore, there is a propensity within biblical interpretation simply to re-endorse the narrator's ideologies and value systems pertaining to sexual violence by accepting Dinah's voicelessness and absence as simply an invitation likewise to ignore her. I explore the ethical implications of Dinah's suppression within both this biblical text and its interpretive traditions, comparing her plight to that of contemporary rape survivors, and propose a means of utilising the testimonies of these survivors as a hermeneutical key in order to conceptualise Dinah's narrative elision as an intrinsic part of her rape experience. Using this feminist hermeneutical strategy, I hope to open the door to further readings of Genesis 34, which may endeavour to grant Dinah more sympathetic interpretive consideration, protest against her marginalization, and give her a voice with which to tell her story.

Affiliations: 1: University of Edinburgh


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