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"The plain and literal sense": on contemporary assumptions about the Song of Songs

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This paper challenges the dominant contemporary understanding of the Song of Songs. First, M. V. Fox's thesis, The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs, is tackled and found to be lacking: significant difference between the Egyptian songs and Canticles are identified, and weaknesses in the apparent similarities are observed. The categories Fox uses to demonstrate the influence of the Egyptian songs on Canticles are then applied Middle English courtly love lyrics, Shakespeare and Robert Burns and are show to be too generic to be meaningful. Secondly, I briefly outline some of the problems raised by a secular-sexual reading of Canticles and contemporary responses to these problems. Finally, I respond to the questions, What is wrong with a secular-sexual understanding of Canticles if that is the plain sense of it? And expose some of the assumptions that underlie a "plain sense" reading of Canticles.


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