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The System and the Speaking Subject in the Hebrew Bible: Reading for Divine Abjection

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What appears to be self-evident in biblical studieswhat "can be assumed" may in fact be quite problematic. Invariably and unquestionably, scholars of Micah 1:8-9 identify its speaker as the prophet rather than YHWH. Yet when one tugs at a few loose threads, that supposedly self-evident reading unravels. After problematizing that identification, this paper argues for reading YHWH as the profoundly unstable speaking subject of this abjectionable dirge. As such, the divine subject of this prophetic discourse is rendered entirely ambivalent, sweeping through and among the people with all the rage and all the grief of absolute disorientation. Understood thus, the book of Micah opens with a theophany of, in Julia Kristeva's terms, a "subject on trial," brought about by the "fracture of a symbolic code which can no longer 'hold' its (speaking) subjects" (1986a:30). This reading, which draws inspiration from Kristeva's theories of textuality and the construction of the speaking subject in discourse, is placed in intertextual tension with Kristeva's own reading of the biblical God in The Powers of Horror (1982), which, ironically, depicts that divine subject as the stable, univocal Guarantor of patriarchal order. Thus this paper is intended to problematize Kristeva's reading of the divine subject of biblical discourse, even while it depends heavily on her theoretical work to evolve a new reading of the text.

Affiliations: 1: Emory University


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