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A Reading of Ehud and Jael through the Lens 
of Affect Theory

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image of Biblical Interpretation

This paper uses affect theory as a tool to interpret the violent images of two stories found in Judges 3–5, those of Ehud and Eglon and that of Jael and Sisera. Affect theory affords biblical exegetes a means to examine the role of the reader’s embodiment as a tool for textual interpretation. I use the work of affect theorists to discuss the way violent images work on readers and create the emotional, physical, and sensory context in which later violent images will be received and interpreted. The sensation created by exposure to violence is embodied in readers before the readers judge the images according to their moral, ideological, and ethical value. In fact, the embodied affect of exposure to violence is the context in which that judgment occurs. In Judges, the violated body anchors an experience of vulnerability and fear in the reader. The visceral affect of anxiety and the intensity of bodily violence position the reader to feel the need for security and relief in the figure of the king. This paper focuses on Ehud and Jael as two of the significant early exposures to the violated body in the book of Judges and explores their different contributions to the theme of physical violence. The physical experiences of modern readers may give us valuable insight into how the physical experiences of readers contribute to the persuasiveness of textual arguments. Affect theory brings into focus the body in the text and the body of the reader as part of meaning-making.

Affiliations: 1: Birmingham-Southern College, USA


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