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In the Wilderness of Speech: Problems of Metaphor in Hosea

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image of Biblical Interpretation

My concern in this essay is with integrative and disintegrative aspects of metaphor. Metaphor, in current theory, is less the transfer of the properties of one semantic field onto another than a process towards an ideal object, wherewith we establish our sense of identity (Lakoff, Kristeva). I draw on psychoanalytic theory, especially Kristeva and Winnicott, to discuss the origins of metaphor in the relations of mother and child, and, in particular, the growth of a "play space," composed of transitional objects, as the nucleus of culture and creativity. Metaphors are generally metaphors for others, linked on complex chains of displacement and deferment. Hence they are unstable; each metaphor will be replaced or countermanded by others. Metaphor, in its integrative aspect, seeks to make sense of a fragmented world; by connecting disparate terms, it risks nonsense. Metaphorical language, especially in Hosea, is often fractured, baffling, and claims a status verging on madness. In Hosea, it seeks mimetically both to depict social and political entropy, and to interpret it, thus reconstructing and repairing its world. The principal analyses undertaken are of the ambiguous clause, "I am/where are your words/plagues, O Death," in 13:14, and of God's nostalgic fantasy of courting Israel in the wilderness in 2:16—17. The former either subordinates God to death, as the all-encompassing reality of the book, or renders death unreal, inarticulate. The latter turns on the paradoxes of speech and silence, communicated by the pun between wilderness word

Affiliations: 1: University of Alberta, Edmonton


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