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Title page for ETD etd-03232015-170925

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Williams, Jennifer Johnson
Author's Email Address jenniferjwilliams1@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-03232015-170925
Title Ambiguity, Liminality, and Unhomeliness in the Book of Judges: An Analysis of Gendered Pairs and Families
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jack M. Sasson Committee Chair
Annalisa Azzoni Committee Member
Doug A. Knight Committee Member
Herbert Marbury Committee Member
Theodore A. Smith Committee Member
  • feminist scholarship
  • violence
  • women in the Bible
  • threshold
  • mothers
  • daughters
  • wives
  • politics
Date of Defense 2015-03-09
Availability unrestricted
Ambiguity, Liminality, and Unhomeliness in the Book of Judges:

An Analysis of the Gendered Pairs and Families

by Jennifer Johnson Williams

Dissertation under the direction of Professor Jack M. Sasson

This dissertation investigates the creation and dissolution of families in four stories in the book of Judges (Judges 19, 4-5, 11, and 13-16), providing a nuanced feminist interpretation of some of the book’s most challenging and violent stories. The foundation of this study is a literary analysis of the four episodes, focusing principally on characterization of the gendered pairs in each story. The approach also deploys contemporary reading strategies from feminist, anthropological and postcolonial thought.

A literary and ideological reading of these stories reveals that the history in the text is concerned with many issues such as social deterioration and the movement toward kingship, war and families, Israel’s apostasy and YHWH’s guiding hand, the stories of individual people and the story of all of Israel. The project demonstrates that as the condition of Israel deteriorates in the course of the book, clear boundaries and divisions of gender also break down. This blurring of boundaries and narrative ambiguity often occur in the narratives through the exploitation of liminal spaces, times, and characters and in the representation of unhomeliness. In turn, this deconstruction creates elements of complexity and ambiguity, fear and suspicion.

A literary reading that focuses on what happens at the level of family divulges an ideological concern with the roles, places, and statuses of women and the ways in which they operate in domestic and extra domestic functions. A concern with how women contribute to the realization of the ideal group identity becomes apparent. Similarly, the embedded ideology of the text reveals a concern with pressure from inside and outside groups, not just through war but through marriage, kinship, and inheritance issues.

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