Review of Julie Kelso.O Mother, Where Art Thou? An Irigarayan Reading of the Book of Chronicles. (BibleWorld)

Peter D. Miscall
2009 The Bible and Critical Theory  
It is fitting to review Kelso's two-part work in The Bible and Critical Theory. In the first half of her book Kelso presents, as Critical Theory, an in-depth reading of Luce Irigaray's feminist, psychoanalytical critique of the work and theories of Lacan and Freud. She is fascinated with Irigaray's work in itself and as the basis for a feminist approach to the Hebrew Bible as represented in the book of Chronicles, The Bible section of her book. Her reading of Chronicles occupies the second half
more » ... of the book. Her interpretation of Irigaray is, in turn, strongly influenced by Michelle Boulous Walker, particularly her Philosophy and the Maternal Body: Reading Silence (London: Routledge, 1998). Kelso's is not an easy book to read but both its theoretical and biblical parts are rewarding and well worth the time and effort necessary to work through them. But both parts approach her chosen subjects in depth and in detail and in this review I can only touch on some of the high points of the work. Chronicles presents an ideal Israel of the past, present and future, an Israel dedicated to God, king and cult. A leitmotif for Kelso in reading this ideal portrait is that it effectively silences women by disavowing them, by excluding them from the main narrative action and from the genealogies in the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles. A main strategy of this exclusion is the association of women with maternity and thereby with the maternal body that is absent from Chronicles. Plenty of children, virtually all sons, are born but there is no mention of the necessary initial sex, the time of pregnancy or the corporeal process of birthing. Chronicles fantasises an all male society based on a mono-sexual mode of reproduction that proceeds from father to son with little hint of the role of the mother. Such fantasies and dreams can exist only with the suppression of women and the maternal body. In psychoanalytic terms 'the idea of the maternal body as origin belongs to, and constitutes, the masculine unconscious' (p. 168). Through her close reading of Irigaray, a reading that I can only note here, she proposes a psychoanalytical mode of reading a written text that can effectively deal with an ancient,
doi:10.2104/bc090018 fatcat:4tfp3efrvfgezgvxvitqoko6ta