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"Solomon's Salacious Song": Foucault's Author Function and the Early Christian Interpretation of the Canticum Canticorum

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The transformation of the erotic Song of Songs into a mystical tract on the soul's love for Christ was surely one of the great exegetical feats of late ancient Christianity. Recent work on the politics of meaning leads us to interrogate more closely the processes by which early Christian exegetes achieved that feat, and how their interpretations encoded and produced particular forms of socially mediated power and knowledge. Michel Foucault has proposed for modern literary criticism the interpretive mode of the "author function," by which literary critics can domesticate or reject a text that is potentially transgressive. This "author function" supplied one method by which difficult canonical texts, like the Song of Songs, were tamed, and furthermore produced authoritative (and authorial) meaning that mediated contested boundaries of Christian cultural identity.

Affiliations: 1: Duke University


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