Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If Your Body's Sexed Female, Your Highest Political Places

Female Heads of State and Government

White House website highlights senior level female staff

Are We [in the USA] Ready for a Woman President [Yet]?

Female Heads of State and Government

[USA] White House website highlights senior level female staff

Are We [in the USA] Ready for a Woman President [Yet]?

Model-Breaking Jesus: in Daly, Thatcher, Crossan

Here're just a few patriarchy-exploding, model-breaking quotations:

Those who have come far enough in consciousness to break through the destructive conditioning imposed through "models" offered to the female in our culture are learning to be critical of all ready-made models.  This is not to say that strong and free women do not have an influence, but that this is transmitted rather as an infectious freedom.  Those who are really living on the boundary tend to spark in others the courage to affirm their own unique being.  It may be, as Paul Van Buren contends, that Jesus had such an effect upon his followers.  The important thing, then, was the freedom and power of being in which they participated, which enabled them to be their unique selves.  The point was not blind imitation of Jesus' actions and view.  If reading the Gospels -- or anything else -- sparks this kind of freedom in some persons today, this is hardly to be disparaged.  But then Jesus or any other liberated person who has this effect functions as model precisely in the sense of being a model-breaker, pointing beyond his or her own limitations to the potential for further liberation.
      --Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father: toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation

[There is] a hierarchy of mental categories that reflect our cultural values.  These categories are mutually exclusive, because groups [modeled in aristotelian patriarchy, I say] tend to order reality in terms of opposites:  male/female, dark/light, right/wrong, clean/dirty, animal/plant, and so forth.  The members of each opposed set, however [nonetheless, and in model-busting ways, I say], share enough common traits to be reconciled at a higher level of the hierarchy.  Thus, at one [male-dominant] level men and women may be seen as opposites, but at another [model-breaking] level both men and women are "human beings"....

In [John Dominic] Crossan's view, Jesus intended to build his [wise, accessible] sapiential, here-and-now Kingdom on the ruins of normal society.  For this reason, Jesus' teaching was characterized by statements calculated to undermine the social structure of Roman Palestine.  Ancient Mediterranean culture was organized into two interlocking groups, "the familial and the political, kinship and politics"; Jesus opposed both with "biting aphorisms and dialogues."  Indeed, Jesus "very, very often" entered into "an almost savage attack on family values," specifically the oppressive values associated with patriarchal rule....  But this subversion of traditional family values was, ultimately, a commentary on the larger social order, since "the family is society in miniature"....  Each of these activities invited people to experience God's sovereign rule in defiance of cultural norms.  Specifically, whereas Caesar's Kingdom was sharply stratified on the basis of patriarchy, patronage, honor, and, in Palestine at least, religious purity, God's kingdom would be open, accessible, and egalitarian, completely devoid of rank.
      -- Tom Thatcher [quoting Crossan's Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography and The Historical Jesus], Jesus the Riddler: the Power of Ambiguity in the Gospels

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

'silly' American translated: herstory

At some point in my blogging, I want to begin focusing on points at which several Bible translators and bibliobloggers have downplayed if not downright denied the fact of much Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek wordplay in the Bible (of Jews and of Christians).  Today, I just want to look at how feminists have worked with wordplay and with (the consequences of) its translation.  You'll see how this comes back to Mary Daly just a bit.

Let me quote extensively from the German / Canadian writer Luise von Flotow and her essay, "Mutual Pun-ishment? Feminist Wordplay in Translation: Mary Daly in German," in Traductio: Essays on Punning and Translation, edited by Dirk Delabastita.   Biblicists might initially be more interested in the book's essay, "A Portion of Slippery Stones: Wordplay in Four Twentieth-Century Translations of the Hebrew Bible," by Anneke De Vries and Arian J.C. Verheij; however, von Flotow's chapter comes first, and with good reason: she gets at the critical issues more richly.

Here's von Flotow:

[Among Canadian feminists], translation came to be viewed as creative and cooperative interaction, rather than suspect and uncertain approximation.  And the challenge that wordplay translation presented was answered with 'polysemic' approaches in which the translator used unorthodox, multiple methods to deal with multiple meanings -- even mimetic translation of wordplay, which abandons the conventional striving for semantic equivalence in favour of interlingual formal association.  This, in turn, "violate[d] the current rule that a translation must not give the impression that it is a translation" (Godarad 1987:7), so that the Canadian academic-cum-translator became a reader/writer who was as liberated from the constraints of translation norms, as the writer she was translating was liberated from 'patriarchal' textual norms.

So why is the German version of Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology a form of pun-ishment, as critic Pusch claims, and as the hasty disbanding of the German reading circles may show?  If Anglo-American-Canadian feminist academics and critics have been able to integrate foreign wordplay into their critical practice..., why is this not possible with the German text?  (page 54)

....  One particularly salient example [of the German translator's failure] is her footnote to Daly's footnote on the term herstory.
      Daly does not approve of this term; she feels that the term herstory, a neologism for women's history, implies "a desire to parallel the record of men's achievements"....  Prehistory would be a better term to use.  [German translator] Wisselinck enlarges on this, placing her own explanation of Daly's comment before her own translation of Daly's footnote.  She begins by stating that the German language has not yet developed the new woman's language ("neue Frauensprache") that English has, and she speculates that German may lack the capacity to change.  She then goes on to explain that married anglophone couples like to use toothbrush glasses, towels and place mats with His and Hers labels.  It is from this practice, she implies, that the term herstory has been derived.
      The sudden appearance of such lowly domestic items as toothbrush glasses and place mats in conjunction with excuses about why the German language resists change is more than disconcerting; it trivializes the issue.  Anglo-American efforts to change language and thereby change gender awareness are undermined by parallels drawn to 'silly' American cultural artefacts and habits.  The German language appears in counterpoint as a solid constant, impervious to such trivialities [or even impervious to much change].  Though Daly herself disapproves of the herstory wordplay for political reasons, she does not degrade the term in the way the German translation, perhaps unwittingly, does....  (pages 59-60)

All translation of wordplay raises particular problems regarding the transfer of cultural knowledge and specific context-bound shades of meaning, besides the question of the unavoidable differences between semantic items and their range of meanings and connotations in different languages (e.g. Levine 1991; Delabastita 1994).  In addition, wordplay translation in feminist writing has raised issues of political solidarity between women across linguistic and cultural boundaries.  It in fact highlights problems originating in cultural and historical differences, similar to those aired on the occasions of international or 'supranational' women's congresses, where vastly differing economic and cultural groups try to reach understanding and agreement.

Reading Mary Daly in German

The wordplay that laces Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology, her classic of 'radical feminist' (now viewed as white-middle-class-educated-feminist) thought, made it a pleasure for me to read in English (perhaps because I, too, fit the white-middle-class-educated-anglophone category).  My first reading of the work in the summer of 1979 had me in stitches over her inventive impudence, her sarcasm and lack of respect for conventional American English and the culture that supports it, and over her unceasing and creative efforts to find ways to take the wind out of the complacent sails of 'patriarchal' language.  The book's main focus is on the historical victimization of women, and on the role filled by 'henchwomen' of patriarchy for this purpose....  For me, the wordplay was one of the more important aspects, providing respite and relaxation from an often disturbing context.
      The German translation of this work was completed by Erika Wisselinck shortly after its English publication.  (page 51)


Fortunately, von Flotow has made her entire chapter available right here, at her web site.  You can read how she details Wisselinck's three strategies and failures, as compared to wordplay methods and successes by French-English Canadian translators.

wordplay: herstory

There seems to be a subtle or (if you're a feminist insider perhaps) not so subtle dialectic (debate or conversation) going on between Audre Lorde and Mary Daly.  The one seems not as convinced as the other in the power of wordplay.  And yet both seem to use this tool, don't they?  Listen:
Gynocentric writing means risking.  Since the language and style of patriarchal writing simply cannot contain or carry the energy of women's exorcism and ecstasy, in this book I invent, dis-cover, re-member.  At times I make up words (such as gynaesthesia for women's synaesthesia).  Often I unmask deceptive words by dividing them and employing alternate meanings for prefixes (for example, re-cover actually says "cover again").  I also unmask their hidden reversals, often by using less known or "obsolete" meanings (for example, glamour as used to name a witch's power).  Sometimes I simply invite the reader to listen to words in a different way (for example, de-light).  When I play with words I do this attentively, deeply, paying attention to etymology, to varied dimensions of meaning, to deep Background meanings and subliminal associations.  There are some woman-made words which I choose not to use for various reasons.  Sometimes I reject words that I think are inauthentic, obscuring women's existence and masking the conditions of our oppression (for example, chairperson).  In other cases my choice is a matter of intuitive judgement (for example, my decision not to use herstory).
.... I prefer the power of  the term Prehistory to name the prior importance of interconnected significant events of women's living and dying.  Her-story, I think, shortcircuits the intent of radical feminism by implying a desire to parallel the record of men's achievements.  It fails because it imitates male history.  Inherently, it has an "odor" of mere reactive maneuvering, which is humiliating to women.  It conveys an image of history's junior partner.  The point is not simply that this term is "etymologically incorrect."  It is enlightening to compare this term with such woman-made constructs as man-ipulated or the/rapist, which are also "incorrect," but do succeed in targeting/humiliating the right objects.
....    Another delicate area has been the use of pronouns, especially the choice between we and they to refer to women.  Elsewhere I have stressed the importance of the pronoun we and avoided the "objective" they.  Obviously, there are times when the use of we would be absurd -- for example, when referring to the women of ancient Greece....  Sometimes, since the ambiguity about whether to use we or they is not clearly resolvable, there are difficult choices.  Since pronouns are profoundly personal and political, they carry powerful messages.  Despite the fact that many writers and readers ignore this pronominal power, subliminal clues are transmitted and received.  At times my choice of we or they is a means of realizing my identification with, or separation from, certain roles and behaviors.
--Mary Daly, 1975/78
Now, against Daly's piece of writing here and -- we might imagine -- in response to her process of writing, Audre Lorde writes.  Notice both what Lorde says and also how she says it.  Pay attention to the pronouns (i.e., "us" and "you" and "me" and "our") and to history (i.e., "herstory").  Catch the allusions to "ancient" and to what that includes for Lorde but what it has included, in a much more limited way, for Daly.  Eavesdrop on the subliminal ways that Lorde critiques Daly for "separation" and "reversal" and "erasure."  (The last line I've quoted below from Lorde is not directly addressed to Daly, but, in the context of Lorde's collection of essays, the comment is a profound statement to the white woman [i.e., Daly], who cannot and perhaps has not dismantled patriarchy.  Lorde's use of the word "master," as the daughter of a slave in herstory of race-based slavery, is profound wordplay indeed, a deep de-construction.  What house is being built?)  Listen.
      Have you read my work, and the work of other Black women, for what it could give you?  Or did you hunt through only to find words that would legitimize your chapter on African genital mutilation in the eyes of other Black women?  And if so, then why not use our words to legitimize or illustrate the other places where we connect in our being and becoming?  If, on the other hand, it was not Black women you were attempting to reach, in what way did our words illustrate your point for white women?
      Mary, I ask that you be aware of how this serves the destructive forces of racism and separation between women - the assumption that the herstory and myth of white women is the legitimate and sole herstory and myth of all women to call upon for power and background, and that nonwhite women and our hersotires are noteworthy only as decorations, or examples of female victimization.  I ask that you be aware of the effect that this dismissal has upon the community of Black women and other women of Color, and how it devalues your own words.  This dismissal does not essentially differ from the specialized devaluations that make Black women prey, for instance, to the murders even now happening in your own city.  When patriarchy dismisses us, it encourages our murderers.  When radical lesbian feminist theory dismisses us, it encourages its own demise.
      This dismissal stands as a real block to communication between us.  This block makes it far easier to turn away from you completely than to attempt to understand the thinking behind your choices.  Should the next step be war between us, or separation?  Assimilation within a solely western european herstory is not acceptable.
      Mary, I ask that you re-member what is dark and ancient and divine within yourself that aids your speaking.  As outsiders, we need each other for support and connection and all the other necessities of living on the borders.  But in order to come together we must recognize each other.  Yet I feel that since you have so completely un-recognized me, perhaps I have been in error concerning you and no longer recognize you.
....  The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.
--Audre Lorde, 1984

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mary Daly's Meta Definitions (and Meta Methods)

I'm imaging your response as you read my post's title.  Perhaps you're rolling your eyes (as my teenage daughter did this morning when -- upon my asking her again why she was has having to serve detention at her private Christian school -- she said, "I forgot to get my Bible out of my locker for Bible class, okay?").  Or maybe you're just a little intrigued (as my spouse and I are - upon being invited to a Seder this evening after just being invited to a "Lord's Supper" palm Sunday service yesterday).  Or could it be that you're laughing nervously (as the college students of my Vietnamese colleague snickered and shifted when trying to understand and to role play the scene of a U.S. film in which the characters do things not entirely appropriate in a Southeast Asian context)?

I really have intended to write my post here to reflect on Mary Daly's "meta" definitions and such methods.  Here's a little of what I think.

Who you think you are -- your self-reflective situation -- very much determines what you do with Mary Daly's writings, particularly her book Gyn/Ecologythe Metaethics of Radical Feminism.  The fact is that such a book demands your response.  Yours.  You may, for example, decide that you need not to read it, or at least not again.  Or don't have time for it, unless someone nice invites you to read along.  Or, when reading it, you might see that you do not get it.  You might accuse it of making your eyes roll or of other things.

My particular interest (at least one of my interests in particular) is the subjectivities that Daly's "radical feminism" evokes and invokes.  How we -- you and I -- might be provoked 35 years later still is of interest.  I am bringing this up during your women's history month.  (I am suggesting that you are doing things, as I am, without necessarily even knowing what or why or how exactly.  But, I am also hopeful and optimistic that we can pay attention.  I don't believe for a second what the anonymous writer of the British Times speculates when he or she suggests that Daly's "initial challenge to established theological doctrines and emerging feminist movements may not appear radical today.")

With her own 1990 introduction to her book Gyn/Ecology, Daly is already writing a 15-year-old history of the writing of her book.  The history includes her most kind and her most critical readers and some of their responses.  Her brief history about her book also includes some of her "exigencies" for writing in the first place.  This is what Lloyd Bitzer, in developing his theory of rhetorical criticism, would call Daly's "rhetorical situation."  She did not write in 1975 in a vacuum; and she was not re-writing in 1990 in a vacuum; and now there's no abstract happy-world vacuum that she's written in, now that she's dead and you're still alive with me, we now part of her history (even if you, or I, ignore or yawn at what she's written and re-written).  Daly's brief history writing is a reflection on, a bringing up to date, the past problems.  And it's one of her reflections on some of the varied responses.  She is not herself alone, so it seems, intending to write the final, the perfect, the definitive, the "super" constructed, the true, the only, the authoritative response.  She is not intending to write anything at all like a definitive response.  However "radical" it comes across to you, it is therefore in some way open to your response.  If her writing is not radical, as you see it, at least it's fairly miraculous, I think, that you've continued reading this blog post on her (radical) writings thus far.

One of the most important statements of re-membering that Daly makes is this memory:
      My reversing of patriarchal reversals in Gyn/Ecology involved/ required functioning in what might be called "a subliminal mode."  This way of thinking/ writing probably would not have been possible for me if I had not spent years studying medieval theology and philosophy, and writing dissertations in these fields at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, the medieval city in which I lived and studied for seven years.  For there I learned to think and write in a theological/ philosophical language that could not say what I was trying to say.  So in my dissertations [both in philosophy and in theology] I was writing in code without realizing that I was doing this.
      ....  Having caught on in some deep way to the multileveled nature of discourse, I was enabled to reverse the process I had learned in Fribourg and decode patriarchal texts, thus exposing their hidden meanings. [pages xxvi-xxvii of the 1990, 15-year-retrospective introduction to her 1975 book.]
What I'd like you and me to re-read is that bit about "writing" that's "without realizing."  This is profound.  Daly is confessing that she has had to catch "on in some deep way to the multileveled nature of discourse."  Elsewhere, in the new Preface of her book, she explains the need to de-mystify some four very specific "male methods of mystification":  Erasure, Reversal, False polarization (i.e., male-defined feminism vs. male-defined sexism), and Divide and conquer.

And in the very next section of her Preface, she explains very clearly (or at least straightforwardly, so it seems) the title and then the subtitle of her book (i.e., Gyn/Ecology and then the Metaethics of Radical Feminism).  These are "a way of wrenching back some wordpower."  She gives the "Merriam-Webster" given definitions of "meta."  She re-views the inventors of (male) ethics, including Aristotle (who, I'm recalling, coined the term "ethics" by smashing together a common Greek word with an uncommon [feminine] suffix).  And she so begins un-erasing and re-versing and exposing the untruths of binarying and of the patriarchal con-questing.  Daly intends to reverse the "reversal."  Men, she sees, have through their history (of women) reversed many things.  Daly's project is akin to post-modernisms' de-conconstructions of constructs of power that come after her.  It's akin to that coined imperative of meta-noia [μετα-νοεῖτε] of the very Jewish Matthew's John-the-Baptist and his equally Jewish Jesus that comes before her.

Therefore -- well before Daly so carefully lets readers in on what she's doing as an intentional author with her title and her subtitle -- she has said this.  (Are you ready?  Am I?  Do we get the nuances here, the changes there, and the generative qualities of self-transformation and not only mere reformation?)
      I have coined the term metapatriarchal to describe the journey, because the prefix meta has multiple meanings.  It incorporates the idea of "postpatriarchal," for it means occurring later.  It puts patriarchy in the past without denying that its walls/ ruins and demons are still around.  Since meta also means "situated behind," it suggests that the direction of the journey is into the Background.  Another meaning of this prefix is "change in, transformation of."  This, of course, suggests the transforming power of the journey.  By this I do not mean that women's movement "reforms" patriarchy, but that it transforms our Selves.  Since meta means "beyond, transcending," it contains a built-in corrective to reductive notions of mere reformism. 
      This metapatriarchal process of encountering the unknown involves also a continual conversion of the previously unknown into the familiar.... (pages 7 - 8)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Open Words, Open Letter, Open Book

So the question arises in my mind, Mary, do you ever really read the work of Black women?  Did you ever read my words, or did you merely finger through them for quotations which you thought might valuably support an already conceived idea concerning some old and distorted connection between us?  This is not a rhetorical question.
--Audre Lorde, "An Open Letter to Mary Daly," Sister outsider: essays and speeches

In sum, Daly claims that Lorde misunderstood her intent in Gyn/Ecology and contends that a public debate about this issue will serve no purpose.
      Respectfully, I disagree.  Without downplaying how personally painful this debate undoubtedly was for both women (as Rich says, such debates are meant to break our hearts), perhaps the rest of us can now benefit from the debate if we revision it [i.e., Rich's concept of revision from "When We Dead Awaken" (35)], using it [i.e., the debate] to imagine not who was right and who was wrong but rather how one moves from a rhetoric of dysfunctional silence to a rhetoric of listening.
--Krista Ratcliffe, Rhetorical listening: identification, gender, whiteness

      Explosions of Diversity do not happen without conflict, however.  One of the responses to Gyn/Ecology was a personal letter from Audre Lorde, which was sent to me in May 1979.  For deep and complex personal reasons I was unable to respond to this lengthy letter immediately.  However, when Lorde came to Boston to give a poetry reading that summer, I made a point of attending it and spoke with her briefly.  I told her that I would like to discuss her letter in person so that we would have an adequate opportunity to understand each other in the dialogue, and I suggested places where we might meet for a discussion. Our meeting did in fact take place at the Simone de Beauvoir conference in New York on September 29, 1979.  In the course of that hour-or-so-long meeting we discussed my book and her response.  I explained my positions clearly, or so I thought.  I pointed out, for example, in answer to Audre Lorde’s objection that I failed to name Black goddesses, that Gyn/Ecology is not a compendium of goddesses. Rather, it focuses primarily on myths and symbols which were direct sources of christian myth. Apparently Lorde was not satisfied, although she did not indicate this at the time. She later published and republished slightly altered versions of her original personal letter to me in This Bridge Called My Back and in Sister Outsider as an "Open Letter."
      It continues to be my judgment that public response in kind would not be a fruitful direction.  In my view Gyn/Ecology is itself an "Open Book."
--Mary Daly, from the 1990 introduction to Gyn/Ecology 
Writing this book is participating in a feminist process.  This is problematic.  For isn't a book by definition a "thing," an objectification of thinking/imagining/speaking?  Here is a book in my hands:  fixed, solid.  Perhaps--hopefully--its author no longer wholly agrees with it.  It is, at least partially, her past.  The dilemma of the living/verbing writer is real, but much of the problem resides in the way books are perceived.  If they are perceived/used/idolized as Sacred Texts (like the bible or the writings of chairman Mao), then of course the idolators are caught on a wheel that turns but does not move.
--Mary Daly, from the 1975 introduction to Gyn/Ecology

When I set it [i.e., the book Gyn/Ecology] free so it could be in the world, I did not see it as a work of perfection.  For some women it could be an Awakening shock, for others a Source of information, or a springboard from which they might Leap into their own A-mazing Searches, Words, Metaphors.
      Above all, I was acutely aware that I had not done or written everything.  I had not written the Last Word.  (Otherwise, how could I ever write again?)
--Mary Daly, from the 1990 introduction to Gyn/Ecology
In preparing to write this post, I re-read all of my favorite bloggers' obituarial responses to the death of Mary Daly.  Several patterns re-sound.  First, many thoughts are personal reflections, opportunities for each blog writer to reflect on her or his self identity (i.e., as an openly gay man who's never bothered reading Gyn/Ecology because of Daly's infamous transphobia; as a woman, a feminist, raised as a girl by a mother who was converted Catholic and strict, stricter than her father who was born Catholic; as a young woman, a fledgling woman studies scholar not so eager, just yet, to critique Daly for her obvious shortcomings; as a woman, a black woman, a transgendered black woman).  Second, most are grateful to Audre Lorde's critique of Daly as "full of privilege," white privilege and born-woman privilege.  Third, hardly any neglects marking Daly as transphobic.

What I didn't see when I wrote an earlier post, and when re-reading so many of my favorite bloggers posts, and before re-reading Gyn/Ecology in Boston last week is how Bonnie Mann starts her re-view of Daly's book. Mann begins:

"I began using Gyn/Ecology in my work with battered women because it is a book that faces the big Questions."

This is the true value of Daly's work, and I want to explain what I mean by "This."  I began this post on Gyn/Ecology with words, open words.  The "di-a/logue" or "de-bate" or "di-s/pute" with Daly can be, I think, "di-s/en-chant-ment" with ourselves.  This is not to say that we cannot blame much of who we are on The Patriarchy.

In other words, in less Dalyesque words perhaps, I'm trying to say that words have consequences of power.

The true value of Daly's work is for the battered woman, whether you are one or not.  You might be the batterer of a woman.  Why won't you cry, then, re-reading about the consequences of your power?  The culpability of re-covery and di-s/covery is very very personal, very individual.  You sit and read these words, of mine, in silence, or aloud.  You choose.

When I sat in Boston, reading, I cried.  You cannot know where these words met me, where inside me.  Gyn/Ecology reads, to me, like the Bible.  In other words, they (i.e., Daly's words) are not written to me, perhaps not even at me, although the latter is more likely since I am a man, heterosexed (and I am also white), a pinnacle part of that elite establishment of higher education of the world's superpower, America.  These words are now old, two decades old.  They open up to Lorde's critique, if you will, a debate not necessarily one you and I are so involved in.  And yet you hear yourself, don't you?  It's been two decades, twenty years now, and how far have we come, other than to put Mary Daly this year in a box (a pine box or others of our own construction)?  Let me re-read Daly's words, here, from her 15 years of reflection after first writing them the first time, lest you hear them somehow (and want, also, to change, want for change, open):
      In Gyn/Ecology I went beyond the scope of Beyond God the Father.  First, the analysis is not restricted to christianity but extends to the universality of patriarchal religion itself....  I wrote to expose the atrocities perpetrated against women under patriarchy on a planetary scale....
     Since Gyn/Ecology was published, the agents of patriarchal evil [some 15 years later] have invaded women and nature with more and more virulent attacks....
      To list a few of these "developments":  A ten-billion-dollar pornography industry has developed and continues to escalate; its images of the torture, murder, and dismemberment of women and girls are everywhere, "inspiring" more and more rapists and sex murderers to copy these images.  Women battering and incest are alarmingly widespread.  The reality of these horrors has always existed under patriarchy, but in recent years there has been an increase not only of information about them but also of the "practices" themselves.  There has been an upsurge of international trafficking in women.  Women of color are the primary victims of this atrocity as well as all other crimes.  The demand for child prostitutes is enormous, especially around military bases and as "tourist attractions."  The new reproductive technologies have developed at an alarming rate, taking on new forms that reduce women to subhuman "subjects" of experimentation.  The torture of animals in laboratories and in agribusiness beggars description.  And the Life-killers continue to kill the earth and its inhabitants. (pages xxiv - xxv)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Two books

While in Boston for a work conference I read two books I may blog about. Jane Stranz recommended the first, which I carried with me for the trip -Jesus the Riddler: the power of ambiguity in the gospels by Tom Thatcher. The second I bought in a used bookstore cellar - Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, that second edition, with her 1990 introduction some 15 years after the first edition; tha now-2-decade-old intro is the one I'd never read until in boston where Daly had worked and found the first sad necessary impetus for writing in the first place. I'm writing posting via an iPhone app, so more to come later on these insightful inventive important works I'm sure.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 26, 2010

If Your Body's Sexed Female and Arab, Your Rights may be Either (a) Islamic Or (b) Western

"No country has escaped the global trend towards greater equality between the sexes, not even one as poor and tradition-bound as Yemen, where half of girls are married off before the age of 18 and many even before the age of 10. Yet the day before that demonstration even more women (pictured right), nearly all wearing full face veils, gathered at the same spot to denounce the law as an imposition of unIslamic, Western values.

Arab women have made huge if uneven strides since the issue of their rights arose a hundred years ago."

-- report in The Economist

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Translating Genesis 1:1: Aristotle or the Big Bang?

Dr. Hugh Henry and Mr. Daniel J. Dyke, respectively a retired physicist and a professor of Old Testament, have taken on Rashi, Robert Young, and several other Bible translators. In fact, the two have taken on (what they say is) Aristotle's view of the universe and the resultant (liberal, unscientific, outdated) translation methods of the Bible.

Their essay "Translating Genesis 1:1: Aristotle or the Big Bang?" is posted as a two parter here and here.

They're claiming that "it is intellectually satisfying that modern science now affirms the traditional translation of Genesis 1:1."  They're saying that "the rationale for Rashi’s own retranslation is discredited Aristotelian physics—not the opinions of his rabbinic predecessors."  They're asserting that Robert "Young followed Rashi in his translation of Genesis 1:1" and speculating that "he may have been seeking to make his Young’s Literal Translation consistent with [then] contemporary science."

In contrast, Henry and Dyke like this sort of "traditional" translation as more scientific:
1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
 2And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
 3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Young's Literal, which Henry and Dyke don't quote, goes like this:
 1In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth --
 2the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness [is] on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters,
 3and God saith, `Let light be;' and light is.
But Henry and Dyke do give the following two translations and critique them:
  • “When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen 1:1–3, NJPS).
  • “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:1–2, NRSV).
The most troubling thing about what Henry and Dyke do is to miscredit Aristotle for Rashi's and Young's and the NJPS and NRSV translation teams' translations.

In other words, Henry and Dyke don't refer readers to Aristotle's Cosmos, Physics, or Metaphysics, in which he clearly outlines his cosmology against, for example, Hesiod's.  Neither do Henry and Dyke discuss Hesiod's Theogony, which forms the backdrop of much of what the Greeks and the Jewish Septuagint translators worked with and against.

Moreover, Henry and Dyke quote Rashi some, but they hardly know how he so carefully works through Genesis, not following Aristotle (if working against Aristotle's sort misogyny and gynophobia -- see Suzanne's post here linking to Rashi's "feminist" commentary on Genesis 1" which is followed by notes on "Rashi's "feminist" commentary on Genesis 3").

I only have a bit more time to say a couple of more things.  Then, I'd welcome anyone else's comments.

First, we'd do well to read Hesiod's Theogony when reading Moses's Genesis.  The Septuagint translation (which Henry and Dyke praise ironically) seems very aware of the old Greek text.  Second, Robert Alter, who by no means is following either Aristotle or Rashi (or Robert Young for that matter), produces a translation of the Hebrew that sounds very much like the non-traditional ones that Henry and Dyke are trying to disparage as neo-Aristotelian.  So take a look at some of that, in light of Henry and Dykes sweeping and erroneous logic and conclusions.  And then, we can avoid the sort of Aristotelian binary that Henry and Dykes propose with either "Aristotle or the Big Bang."

Here's Hesiod, then the LXX, then Alter:
First of all chaos [Chaos, Χάος] came into existence, thereafter however / Broad-bosomed earth [Gai', Γαῖ'] took form, the forever immovable seat of  / All of the deathless gods who inhabit the heights of Olympus, / And murky Tartarus, tucked in a cleft of extensively travelled / Earth [Gai', Γαῖ'], also Eros [Ἔρος], most beautiful god among all the immortals, / Loosening limbs, dominating the hearts and the minds and the well-laid / Plans both of all the immortals and all of susceptible mankind.
      --Hesiod, Theogony 116-22 (translated by Daryl Hine)

In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth [Gen, Γῆν].  Yet the earth [Gen, Γῆν] was invisible [a-oratos, ἀ-όρατος] and unformed [a-kataskeuastos, ἀ-κατασκεύαστος], and darkness was over the abyss [ἀβύσσου], and a divine wind [pneuma theou, πνεῦμα θεοῦ] was being carried along over the water.  And God said [eipen ho theos, εἶπεν ὁ θεός], "Let light come into being [Genetheto, Γενηθήτω]," And light came into being.
      --Moses, Genesis 1:1-3, translated by unnamed Jewish translators from his Hebrew into their Hellene (further translated into English by Robert J. V. Hiebert, NETS)

When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters, God said "Let there be light." And there was light.
      --Moses, Bereishit (בְּרֵאשִׁית, "in the beginning") Genesis 1:1-3, (translated by Robert Alter)

Now, what do you think?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Jesus and Women on Men and Women Friendship

Well, I really don't have much to say here.  You read the narratives of women and of Jesus and you get the idea that love isn't really so boxed up into neat categories that match Greek words that reinforce hierarchies.

Aristotle and Meilaender on Men and Women Friendship

Carolyn Custis James has again quoted Gilbert Meilaender at Whitby Forum.  Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed had quoted him too.  Now friendship between the sexes."

Now what I'd like to do here is to review some of how Meilaendar quotes Aristotle.

As we all know, Meilaendar quotes Aristotle an awful lot.  Interestingly enough, the ethos of Aristotle has lots of appeal, because he's written a lot to quote with such tidy conclusions.  It's not surprising that Meilaendar appeals to Aristotle as one large authority on "friendship."  (And, likewise, it's not entirely surprising that more of you have read my quotations of Aristotle "On Love" than any other posting at this blog -- except that good-contemporary research post on Aristotle's "sexism").

Meilaendar wants to emphasize that there will be "a problem for friendships between men and women, even if it may also be enriching."  The warrant for his claim?  It's this:  "Eros always threatens; for, unlike friendship [i.e., 'philia'], eros is a love that is jealous and cannot be shared."

Meilaendar's presumption is that eros, at least as Aristotle conceives of it, is or might be between males and females as some sort of equally mutual, reciprocal love (or lust).  Of course, Meilaendar does acknowledge that Aristotle is not thinking about equals:  "he has in mind, it would seem, pederastic relationships."  And yet Meilaendar wants to explore something else, somehow, with Aristotle's endorsement:  "but this does not affect his view of the relation between eros and philia" ... as if Aristotle is interested in eros between the sexes.  He is not.  Just to be clear:  Aristotle is not interested in mutual eros or philia between men and women.  For example, when Aristotle talks about eros and friendship in the same paragraph, look at where the woman belongs; here's from his Politics:
For the constitution [at Syracuse in ancient times] underwent a revolution as a result of a quarrel that arose between two young men, who belonged to the ruling class, about a love affair [eros, ἐρωτικὴν]. While one of them was abroad the other who was his comrade won over the [male] youth with whom he was in love [eros, ἐρώμενον], and the former in his anger against him retaliated by persuading his wife to come to him.
In Aristotle's example of the problem of eros, the two male comrades get in a spat, and one uses erotic love with a younger male to get the other angry or jealous.  To get back at him, the other woos his friend's female spouse (although it's not, as Aristotle writes it, explicitly the same sort of relationship as with the male youth).  The woman who's the wife in the story Aristotle tells is used, but she doesn't even get the sort of love the boy who's used does; Aristotle is not interested in naming what comes to the wife, or what might or ought to come to her, as either love [eros] or friendship [philea].

And friendship within the heterosexual marriage, Aristotle says, is by Nature aristocratic, with the man as ruler and king over his wife, his subject.  Meilaender does well to repeat this notion, if in an understated sort of way:  "Aristotle recognizes, of course, that there is a kind of friendship between husband and wife, but it is one example of what he calls friendship between unequals."  So, we do well to get the fact that, for Aristotle, a female is a mutated male, never equal and always inferior.

Meilaender wants to appeal to Aristotle's "view of the relation between eros and philia," Aristotle's seemingly objective division and separation of love into types, in order ironically somehow to get to mutuality between the sexes.  But Meilaender must look beyond the patriarchy, beyond the gynophobia, beyond the misogyny, if he's going to succeed.  Fortunately, he does briefly.  He quotes Mary Hunt, author of Fierce Tenderness: A Feminist Theology of Friendship (1991):
Nonetheless, it may be worth thinking briefly about what she recommends: namely, “new models of mutuality” which are most easily found among women friends. We ought not, she argues, take Aristotle's model of friendship and suppose that he simply forgot to include women when he talked and wrote of it—an omission we can then easily correct. We should not take his model and then just add women's experience “as if they should have been there in the first place” .... Thus, according to Hunt, women need not worry about classifying friendships as carefully as did Aristotle, nor need they worry about whether friends are best friends or just good friends. “Only ruling-class men whose survival is not in question have the dubious luxury of looking up and down at their friends, companions, and acquaintances.” Women, by contrast, in a society which—in Hunt's view—is oppressive, cannot concern themselves with levels of friendship. For them the simple truth is that “friends, lots of them, are necessary for . . . survival in an often unfriendly environment.”

Unfortunately, Meilaender goes on to box up "Hunt's view" and to eventually make her sound like Aristotle in very odd ways.  "Hunt is far more like Aristotle than she realizes," he says.  But we wonder if he knows what Aristotle is like.

Meilaender, with some other men he continues to quote, seems to have the "luxury of looking up and down at" various types of friendship and love.  He seems to continue find "classifying friendships as carefully as did Aristotle" important.  He seems to want to keep one thing different from and quite above the other:
[C. S.] Lewis believes that friendship and erotic love may go together, but in many respects he agrees with Harry and with Aristotle that the combination is an unstable one....  We ought not, I think, deny that friendships between men and women—friendships that are not also marked by erotic love—are possible. We ought not, that is, let a theory lead us to deny the reality we see around us, and we do sometimes see or experience such friendships. Nor need we express the view shared by Harry [Burns, the character in Nora Ephron's screenplay, "When Harry Met Sally"] and Lewis quite as crassly as did [Friedrich] Nietzsche: “Women can enter into a friendship with a man perfectly well; but in order to maintain it the aid of a little physical antipathy is perhaps required.” Nor, surely, need we hold, as my students sometimes do, that friendship between men and women is possible only if at least one of the friends is homosexual (a view that will make same-sex friendships difficult for those who are homosexual, unless, of course, their experience of eros is in no way jealous or exclusive). At the same time, however, there is no reason to deny some truth to Harry's claim, even without the additional support provided by Aristotle and Lewis, for our experience also suggests that there is something to it.
When Meilaender hints here that his experience (as "our experience"?) supports something that Aristotle says (and, therefore, that the support of Aristotle may be discarded since no longer needed), then we are not surprised.  We are not surprised when Meilaender finds himself turning again and again to Aristotle for support:
That is, to revert to the terms I drew from Aristotle, they [men and women] must find in the friend another self, another individuality, but one whose otherness is not so overwhelming as to threaten to engulf or invade their selfhood. No doubt this is not always possible, for reasons we noted earlier when considering the impact of eros on friendship.
Mainly how Meilaender quotes Aristotle is for support that love must be compartmentalized into various categories of difference.  He then can tell women and men how they must and must not love.

Jesus: the Second Eve

Carolyn Custis James starts a recent post in the following way:
". . . you are the devil's gateway. . . you are she who persuaded him, whom the devil did not dare attack. . . . Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on your sex, lives on in this age; the guilt, necessarily, lives on too."

The view of woman as "temptress" has early roots and is alive and well today both in the wider culture (see links below) and sadly also in Christian circles.

Rape Victim-Blaming Pamphlet
Eve-Teasing Threatens Women in India and Bangladesh
Note that "Eve-Teasing" and "temptress" problem!  And remember how Jill started a post some time back:
I should have known better than to browse through the results of a survey about modesty, given to young Christian men.
Note the male perspective of females, that perspective of Christians.  So pardon me, if you will, for reading and translating some bible, turning the perspectives around.

When so many men blame Eve first, what if Jesus is the second Eve, a sort of tempted temptress himself?  There are two parts to this if you want to track here.


This God formed a Human (dirt from Mother Earth), 
exhaled into his face life breath,
and birthed the Human into a living self
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Genesis 2:7

καὶ ἔπλασεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον χοῦν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς
καὶ ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς 
καὶ γένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from  his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek:  Genesis 2:7

And so it is written:  [He] "birthed  
the [first] human [Adam] into a living self"; 
the final Adam into a life breather.... 
The first human was birthed out of earth (dirt); 
the second human out of heaven's sky.
-- Paul, to Jewish Greeks in Greece (translated from his Greek to my English in America):  I Corinthians 15:45.... 47

Οὕτως καὶ γέγραπται,γένετο 
πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν.
ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν....  
Ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς, χοϊκός· 
ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. 
-- Paul, to Jewish Greeks in Greece in his Greek:  I Corinthians 15:45.... 47

Adam was, in fact, the first formed, 
then Eve.
Adam was not the one deceived.
The womb-wife woman was, 
birthed, in transgression, out of deception.
-- Paul, to the half-Greek-half-Jew Timothy in Greece (translated from his Greek to my English in America):  I Timothy 2:13, 14

Ἀδὰμ γὰρ πρῶτος ἐπλάσθη,
εἶτα Εὔα·
καὶ Ἀδὰμ οὐκ ἠπατήθη,
ἡ δὲ γυνὴ
ἐξαπατηθεῖσα ἐν παραβάσει γέγονεν·
-- Paul, to the half-Greek-half-Jew Timothy in Greece in his Greek:  I Timothy 2:13, 14

... the snake deceived Eve 
in its delightful delusion ....
-- Paul, to Jewish Greeks in Greece (translated from his Greek to my English in America):  II Corinthians 11:3

... ὁ ὄφις ἐξηπάτησεν Εὕαν
ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτοῦ ....
-- Paul, to Jewish Greeks in Greece in his Greek:  II Corinthians 11:3


This God created a Human poetically,
He created It, as a portrait of God, poetically,
He created Them, Boyish and Girly, poetically,
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Genesis 1:27

καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον
κατ’ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν
ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from  his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek:  Genesis 1:27

Adam said,
"Now here's bone
out of my bones,
flesh out of my flesh.
Let's call her Womb-Wife Woman
since she herself came 
out of a Husband-Man."
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Genesis 2:23

καὶ εἶπεν Αδαμ
τοῦτο νῦν ὀστοῦν  
ἐκ τῶν ὀστέων μου
καὶ σὰρξ  
ἐκ τῆς σαρκός μου  
αὕτη κληθήσεται γυνή
ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς
αὐτῆς ἐλήμφθη αὕτη 
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek:  Genesis 2:23

Adam nick-named
his Womb-Wife Woman "Life"
since she's mother of all the living.
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Genesis 3:20

καὶ ἐκάλεσεν Αδαμ
τὸ ὄνομα τῆς γυναικὸς αὐτοῦ Ζωή
αὕτη μήτηρ πάντων τῶν ζώντων
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek:  Genesis 3:20

Jacob birthed Joseph, the husband-man of
out of whom was birthed Joshua,
the so-called Anointed....
The anointed Joshua's birth went like this:
"His mother Miriam, 
having gotten engaged to Joseph,
before they actually got together,
discovered that protrusion in her belly
out of a special breath of holiness."
-- Mattityah, to Jews in and around Palestine in his Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Matthew 1:16.... 18

Ἰακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωσὴφ τὸν ἄνδρα  
ἐξ ἧς ἐγεννήθη Ἰησοῦς, ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός....
Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ἡ γέννησις οὕτως ἦν.
Μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ 
Μαρίας τῷ Ἰωσήφ,
πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτούς,
εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα  
ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου.
-- Mattityah, to Jews in and around Palestine in his Greek:  Matthew 1:16.... 18

Then Joshua was guided up into the desert
by the Breath
to be tested by the Diabolical spirit....
Coming toward him, the Tester said.... 
-- Mattityah, to Jews in and around Palestine in his Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Matthew 4:1.... 3

Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀνήχθη εἰς τὴν ἔρημον
ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος,  
πειρασθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου....
Καὶ προσελθὼν  ὁ πειράζων εἶπεν αὐτῷ....
-- Mattityah, to Jews in and around Palestine in his Greek:  Matthew 4:1.... 3

... the Snake said to the Womb-Wife Woman:
What's this that "God said"....?
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Genesis 3:1

... καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ὄφις τῇ γυναικί
τί ὅτι εἶπεν ὁ θεός....
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from  his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek:  Genesis 3:1

We do not, in fact, have a chief priest
who is not able to feel our pain with us in these frail weaknesses of ours.
He was tested in each and every thing, our very same way,
without messy misses.
-- an anonymous unknown author or authoress, to Jews everywhere in his or her Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Hebrews 4:15

Οὐ γὰρ ἔχομεν ἀρχιερέα
μὴ δυνάμενον συμπαθῆσαι ταῖς ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν,
πεπειρασμένον δὲ κατὰ πάντα καθ’ ὁμοιότητα,
χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας.
-- an anonymous unknown author or authoress, to Jews everywhere in his or her Greek:  Hebrews 4:15

The God-Master said:
"It's not good that the Human is alone.
I'll poetically create for him his helper."
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Genesis 2:18

καὶ εἶπεν κύριος ὁ θεός
οὐ καλὸν εἶναι τὸν ἄνθρωπον μόνον
ποιήσωμεν αὐτῷ βοηθὸν κατ’ αὐτόν
-- Moses, to Jews living outside of Egypt translated in Egypt from his Hebrew by other Jews into their Greek:  Genesis 2:18

In that he felt his own pain being tested,
he is able - to those being tested - to help.
-- an anonymous unknown author or authoress, to Jews everywhere in his or her Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  Hebrews 2:18

Ἐν ᾧ γὰρ πέπονθεν αὐτὸς πειρασθείς,
δύναται τοῖς πειραζομένοις βοηθῆσαι.
-- an anonymous unknown author or authoress, to Jews everywhere in his or her Greek:  Hebrews 2:18

He made the statement to test him.
He already saw, in fact, what he was so poetically about to create in this situation.
-- Yohan, to Jews in and around Palestine in his Greek (and from Greek into English by a goy in America):  John 6:6

Τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγεν πειράζων αὐτόν·
αὐτὸς γὰρ ᾔδει τί ἔμελλεν ποιεῖν.
-- Yohan, to certain Jews in and around Palestine in his Greek:  John 6:6

Friday, March 19, 2010

Collective Memory Loss or Deliberate Suppression?

      [Martin] Luther's suggestion that Apollos is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has much to commend it.  Should this be the case, we would be indebted to Priscilla for many of the insights contained in that great document.
      Even more intriguing is the theory that Priscilla herself is the author of Hebrews (A. Harnack. A. S. Peake, O. Michel, R. Hoppin, among others).
      It is not inconceivable that Priscilla had been commissioned by church leaders to address the issue of the relation of the two covenants.  As a Jewish leader who had been associated with the now-deceased apostle Paule during his teaching ministry, she would be uniquely qualified to write authoritatively on an issue that they had confronted together repeatedly in their ministries to Jewish-Gentile churches.  Because of the antifemale bias of the Judeo-Christian congregations, she may have been requested to write anonymously, with her identity known only by the local leaders who had given her the assignment.  In this manner she would be able to address the issue from her expertise as a scholar of Jewish background, under the cover of apostolic authority derived from her close association with the apostle Paul and other worthies of the apostolic church.
      In so doing, she may also have set a precedent for nonapostles such as Mark, James, and Jude, but especially for Luke, as he wrote the third Gospel and the book of Acts, both anonymous in the text but authoritative for the church on the strength of Luke's association with Paul.  This device of semi-anonymity would enable her to direct her exhortations to Christians wavering between the two covenants without her gender being an obstacle for the acceptance of her message by the tradition-bound Judaizing belivers.   This theory would help explain a number of baffling features of the epistle.
      a.  It could account for the absence of an authorial superscription and the conspiracy of anonymity that surrounded its authorship in the ancient church.  The lack of any firm data concerning the identity of the author in the extant writings of the church suggests a deliberate suppression more than a case of collective memory loss....
      b.  ....
      c.  ....
      d.  ....
      e.  ....
      f.   ....
      g.  ....  The same Priscilla who taught Apollos when he was already an eloquent man--well versed in Scripture, instructed in the way of the Lord, fervent in spirit, speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus (Acts 18:24-26)--could be the one who continues to nurture the life and thought of the church through this ageless portion of Scripture.

-- The above is an excerpt from a footnote from pages 248-250 of a book by Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman's Place in Church and Family.  The bold font above is my emphasis.

The multiple links within the excerpt above are to the same blogpost, , "Woman is a misbegotten male", the title of which, of course, is a quotation of Thomas Aquinas, who, of course, is quoting "the philosopher," who, of course, is Aristotle.  The first link I've made above is on Martin Luther, whom Marszalek quotes as saying, "Eve originally was more equally a partner with Adam, but because of sin the present woman is a far inferior creature. Because she is responsible for the Fall, woman is in a state of subjugation. The man rules the home and the world, wages war and tills the soil. The woman is like a nail driven into the wall, she sits at home."  We can only guess what Luther might have made of Apollos's apprenticeship under Priscilla.

I am not a conspiracy theorist.  I am, nonetheless, especially during women's history month, wondering how it is that so much of our histories foreground men and suppress and silence women in the shadows.  I thought it might be worth reconsidering the absence of a named author for the Jewish-Christian book, "Hebrews."

I'm prompted to keep the theory of Priscilla as a possible author in the foreground when, today, Michael F. Bird posts that "There has been interesting proposals on this topic [of 'The Authorship of Hebrews'] of late."  But Bird, in his subsequent and extensive interview with proposer Andrew Pitts, allows Pitts to gloss over the proposed possibility of the female author:
3. Could you summarize what it is about Hebrews that indicates that it is Pauline and what suggests that there is a Lucan hand involved?
We also find it difficult to imagine another person in early Christianity with the background necessary to produce such a composition. We don’t have enough information to make solid judgments regarding the abilities of many proposed authors (Barnabas, Pricilla, Apollos, etc.).
So, if you read what Pitts is saying today, in contrast with what Bilezikian is proposing, then once again none of the silence in history is really addressed.  Thus, it might again be time to look carefully at the text of Hebrews itself.  More than a year ago now, Wayne Leman got several looking at and discussing the question of Priscilla as an author, quoting blogger EricW's question:  "So, how strong or good is the argument that the masculine participle in Hebrews 11:32 by which the author refers to himself rules out female authorship?" (Note in the comments thread how author Ruth Hoppin answers:  "You asked if the participle in Heb. 11:32 rules out female authorship. Although this claim is often asserted, the answer is no, it doesn’t.").

Can the question of collective memory loss or deliberate suppression ever go away?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

If Your Body's Sexed Female, Your Art Shows

Our first-born child is closing in on getting his B.A. in studio Art.  His portfolio earned him a scholarship to college, where he's continued to make and show new works and to win awards.  Nonetheless, like so many artists who want careers, he's done some work as an "art student" for free for patrons, and for some for a little bit of cash too.  There are these sexist phrases the art community uses for such:  "art slut" and "art whore" (or, if you're chic, "art prostitute").

Our youngest child has an equal interest and an equal ability in fine arts too.  And yet her body's sexed female, which gets us remembering during women's history month that it's more than just English phrases that are sexist in art.  Unless things change soon and much more, she will as an artist struggle more than her brother -- just because she's a woman.  Thankfully, the Guerrilla Girls have been working, since 1985, to show some art (industry) change that's needed with respect to women.

Take a look at "The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist" and ask with them "Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum?"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

translation: trading polymorphia for neither myopia nor hyperopia

I almost started this post with 3 long epigraphs.  But then, you see, the title is already strange enough.  So let me explain first, then give you 3 long quotations, and finally share some good translation examples.  

First, the explanation:

I want to go back to Joel Hoffman's warning:  "Translators who focus myopically on the words risk missing the forest and seeing only trees."  And then I want to move forward with this encouragement:  "Translators can both enjoy the forest and also share its trees of polymorphic leaves and colors, textures and shapes, rustles and smells." 

So now the 3 long quotations followed by good translation examples:

Every translator knows the point where one language cannot be translated into another.... This kind of linguistic decision is simply a measure of foreignness, an acknowledgment of the fact that languages are not sciences of one another, you cannot match them item for item. But now what if, within this silence, you discover a deeper one.... "The brutality of fact" is [painter Francis] Bacon's own phrase for what he is after in a painting. He is a representational painter. His subjects are people, birds, dogs, grass, sand, water, himself and what he wants to capture of these subjects is (he says) their "reality" or (once he used the term) "essence" or (often) "the facts." By "facts" he doesn't mean to make a copy of the subject as a photograph would, but rather to create a sensible form that will translate directly to your nervous system the same sensation as the subject. He wants to paint the sensation of a jet of water, that very jar on the nerves. 
--Anne Carson, "The Question of Translation"
If we were to deny a possible choice of focus change from static, to dynamic, to relational views (particle, wave, field) we could never change our attention from doing something to being something.... Relevance in human language requires simultaneous—or oscillating—attention to both physical form and mental meaning.... In a phrase such as goals are important to a good government, the physical form includes the sounds and the clausal structure, but the referential meaning refers to the structure of government itself, with its values and purposes. Similarly, the noun goals, in spite of its abstract referential meaning and implied specific detailed purposes, also has the physical component (its form) of the sounds when it is said aloud, or else—if it is at the moment only a thought in somebody's mind—its formal molecular or neurological structure buried someplace, somehow, in the brain.
--Kenneth Pike, Talk, Thought, and Thing
The fundamental structure of patriarchy is thus binary: me/not me, active/passive, culture/nature, normal/deviant, good/bad, masculine/feminine, public/private, political/personal, form/content, subjective/objective, friend/enemy, true/false.... It is a structure, both spatial and temporal, predicated upon separation, not relation.... Which is not women’s language, since women, for a variety of reasons, live in a polymorphic rather than a dimorphic world, a world in which the differentiation of self from other may never completely take place, in which multiple selves may engage multiply with the multiple desires of the creatures in it.... The difference that emerges here is not the polarity intrinsic in the dominant discourse, which reduces “woman to man’s opposite, his other, the negative of the positive.” No, this is an absolute and radical alterity that enfolds the other, as in pregnancy a woman’s immune system shuts down in such a way that she shelters and nourishes, rather than rejects and expels, the foreign body within her: “Cells fuse, split, and proliferate; volumes grow, tissues stretch, and body fluids change rhythm, speeding up or slowing down. Within the body, growing as a graft, indomitable, there is an other. And no one is present, within that simultaneously dual and alien space, to signify what is going on.” Feminine discourse is not the language of opposites but a babel of eroticism, attachment, and empathy.
--Nancy Mairs, Voice Lessons
If you skimmed over the above 3 long quotations, that's okay.  You probably noticed in some of the detail on your fly-by reading that all three writers chose particular details and certain words to say something similar.  Of course, I'm the one calling them similar.  Their trees are my forest, our forest together.  And I almost entitled my forest of a post something rather polymorphic like:  "translation: trading language about women and wombs for the language of women and of wombs."  But then we'd all have to pay too much attention to the tiny prepositions, right?  And you are getting where we're going now, aren't you?  It's not just a particular language, such as our contemporary English or their dead Greek, that has its users struggling over whether there's the risk of mere myopia or of mixing trees in the forest.  But it's also the very act of translation itself that is a struggle.

I'm granting Joel Hoffman the fact that "most translations" of "the Greek phrase en gastri" result from their translator "realizing that even though the Greek words for 'in' and 'womb' appear in the original, the English words 'in' and 'womb' have no place in the translation."  But "realizing" for me has a different meaning than it does for Hoffman.  The realizing is the making of a reality in which wordplay has no place in translation.  And by wordplay I mean not only playfulness of the words and performance by the writer and translator with the words but also hermeneutic "play" or interpretive wiggle room.   I do agree with Hoffman that most translators, even the incredible Richmond Lattimore (who's translation I give as the updated end of this earlier post), "realize" that "To try to form a sentence [in English] with 'in' and 'womb' would be overly myopic, focusing too closely on the [original Greek] words and not on how they work together."

The last post, therefore, was to try to begin to show that there's something in Aristotle's word view (a dimorphic, binary logic) that has changed the way Greek readers and English translators after him approach language.  And this approach is very different from the way Nancy Mairs says women approach language and the way Kenneth Pike says linguists would do well to approach language and the way Anne Carson says translators might render language.

Aristotle's separational approach to language -- especially when focused on bodies sexed female -- is highly suspect.  His mental meaning in language (i.e., his referential meaning) divides women from men, as Carson explains.  Furthermore, his physical form for that language (i.e., even the sounds) subdivides from normal men all mutations called females and, what he calls, kinaidoi (or "catamites") -- as Carson also explains.

Of course, I'm not saying Hoffman is advocating Aristotle's blatant sexism.  But I am wanting us to look carefully, polymorphically, at what Aristotle's done with respect to a gender-bifurcated phrase such as ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα.

I'm suggesting that we might have more care with dividing translation into  

either the merely myopic (which Hoffman calls a "translation trap" with it's near-sighted focus on form)

or what might be it's binary opposite (which Hoffman says is the way the translator must "get this right" by "focusing" in a hyperopic, big-picture relevance-theory way, on the central message to be communicated, on the sole and main meaning of the combined words, "on how they work together").

I'm calling for a translation with wordplay.  And it's a translation that allows words to play structurally and referentially in the guest language and also in the host language.

(Wouldn't it be nice, for example, to have an English translation of the Greek Odyssey in which we, the readers in translation, are not stuck with the monocular Cyclops, who -- in Homer's language -- cannot get the double-meaning pun when the hero tells his name?  The sounds "Ὀ - δυσσεύς" work together to refer to the character, Ulysses or Odysseus. But what if our translation also considered the soundS, as the individual treeS of the one referential forest; and what if those English sounds also meant οὔ τις, "no one"?  Wouldn't the one-eyed monster -- or Πολύ-Φημος, Poly-PHemus -- be shown for what he is, so Plenty-Famous?  So... wouldn't it be nice if a translator could get out of the either / or binary of the myopic translation trap vs. the hyperopic intended relevance?  How about some binoculars?  How about suspecting that looking at the forest but not the trees might lessen the forest in some way?)

Here then are good translation examples:

The first set below is by Willis Barnstone.  The second set I'll introduce in a moment.  Barnstone's translations here are from his Greek Lyric Poetry and his Restored New Testament (coincidentally his very first and his very most recently-published works).  What I'd like you to notice is how the Greek has wordplay and how Barnstone's translation has it.  I've provided the line breaks to foreground the intertextual, interlational wordplay as much as possible.  Do notice that the translation does not seek to match every form for every form.  Nor does the translation try to recreate in English simply the referential meaning (as a hyperopic matching) without so much regard to form.  Rather, Barnstone is attempting to "Let [the Greek author] say everything he wanted to say" in Barnstone's English (form, function, fullness, and fun).   It appears that the Greek writers wanted γαστρὶ to be a physical location of a body; and it appears that the locations and directions specified by some of their other embodied forms do matter.  Likewise, Barnstone's English not only allows both writers playfulness but also grants us their readers hermenuetic wiggle room.  You don't even have to "know" Greek fully to see some of it.  And neither the Greek nor the English is exactly "anything goes" that so many fear.  Instead it's what Pike (quoting Nelson Goodman) calls "radical relativism under rigorous restraints. Here goes:

καὶ πεσεῖν δρήστην ἐπ᾽ ἀσκὸν κἀπὶ γαστρὶ
γαστέρα προσβαλεῖν
μηροὺς τε μηροῖσ᾽ . . .

And to fall upon your heaving belly,
and thrust your groin into her groin,
your thighs between her thighs.

--Archilochus 72 D. 119 W.

Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ἡ γέννησις οὕτως ἦν.
Μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μαρίας τῷ Ἰωσήφ,
πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτούς,
εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα
ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου.

The birth of Yeshua the Mashiah happened this way.
Miryam his mother was engaged to Yosef,
yet before they came together
she discovered a child in her womb,
placed there by the holy spirit.

--Matthew 1:18

The second set of translations is by various English translators of the same text.  The text is called the The Popol Vuh and is in Quiché language of Guatemala.  The reason I've chosen this text is that it is infamously sexist but it's original language uses a very generic (i.e., not male or female or neuter gendered) locative word for what we might refer to as "conception" or "womb."  This same word, in the text, is used for God and for nature, for men and for women.  And the reason I've chosen this set of translations is because they each use English in various ways to render the Quiché.

The context of the phrase in focus is this:  There's a maiden who, by the spit of a man, becomes pregnant.  Her father calls her out before the male Lords, the elders of the village, who must decide whether to kill her for her fornication.  The Quiché phrase that we might transliterate "ral chupan" is one that means (quite literaly) "child inside."  You'll see the English versions with more context.

So here goes:

   ral chupan 

Thus her return again maiden
To her home.
Many instructions
Were said to her.
Straightaway therefore were created
  Her children in her womb
  By the mere saliva.
This therefore their creation
(a "literal" translation and transliteration by Allen J. Christenson)

After all of the above talking, the maiden returned directly to her home, having immediately
conceived the sons in her belly by virtue of the spittle only. And thus Hunahpú and Xbalanqué
were begotten.
(a recreated, mediated translation "into English by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley from Adrián Recino's translation from Quiché into Spanish)

In the same way, by the time the maiden returned to her home, she had been given many instructions.  Right away, something was generated in her belly, from the saliva alone, and this was the generation of Hunahpu and Xbalanque.
(a "definitive" translation by Dennis Tedlock)

Now, I'm out of time.  But if you are still here and have a few moments, what do you see and hear?  How much wordplay is in the Quiché and how, likewise, open (or not) are the different translations of this phrase in this "'Book of the Community,' 'Book of Counsel,' or more literally ...  'Book of the Mat'"?  What difference do these translations make?