Sex and Slaughter in the Tent of Jael: A Cultural History of a Biblical Story

Hardcover | November 14, 2016

byColleen M. Conway

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In the Hebrew Bible, Judges 4-5 tells the lurid story of the heroic figure of Jael, a woman who seduces the Canaanite general Sisera and then nails his head to the ground with a tent-peg, thus saving Israel from the troops of King Sabin. This gruesome tale has long intrigued scholars andartists alike. The many versions of the story that have appeared in art and literature have repeatedly and creatively built on the gendered themes of the tradition, often seeing in the encounter between Jael and Sisera some fundamental truth about the relationship between women and men. In Sex and Slaughter in the Tent of Jael, Colleen Conway offers the first sustained look at how this biblical tradition has been used artistically to articulate and inform cultural debates about gender. She traces the cultural retellings of this story in poems, prints, paintings, plays, andnarratives across many centuries, beginning with its appearance in Judges 4-5 and continuing up to the present day. Once separated from its original theological context, the Jael/Sisera tradition becomes largely about gender identity, particularly the conflict between the sexes. Conway examines theways in which Jael has been reimagined by turns as a wily seductress, passionate lover, frustrated and bored mother, peace-bringing earth goddess, and deadly cyborg assassin. Meanwhile, Sisera variously plays the enemy general, the seduced lover, the noble but tragically duped victim, and theviolent male chauvinist. Ultimately, Conway demonstrates that the ways in which Jael's actions are explained and assessed all depend on when, by whom, and for whom the Jael and Sisera story is being told. In examining the varying artistic renditions of the story, this book also provides a case studyof the Bible's role as a common cultural resource in secular western culture.

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In the Hebrew Bible, Judges 4-5 tells the lurid story of the heroic figure of Jael, a woman who seduces the Canaanite general Sisera and then nails his head to the ground with a tent-peg, thus saving Israel from the troops of King Sabin. This gruesome tale has long intrigued scholars andartists alike. The many versions of the story tha...

Colleen M. Conway is Professor of Religion at Seton Hall University.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pagesPublished:November 14, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190626879

ISBN - 13:9780190626877

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