Queer Mourning and Melancholia in the Book of Ruth
Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab, William Blake, 1795
by Emily McAvan
In this paper I read the Book of Ruth from the Hebrew Bible in relation to modern Jewish feminist and queer theories. I trace the movement in the narrative between mourning and melancholia, suggesting that the mourning of the death of the men of Ruth is only accomplished through the heterosexual melancholia of foreclosing a potential same-sex love.
In her influential work Standing Again on Sinai, Jewish feminist theologian Judith Plaskow asks “what can we claim that has not also wounded us?” (1)1 The Hebrew scriptures have been and continue to be used as a means of control over women, of profoundly limiting the livable possibilities for sex, gender and sexuality. Plaskow suggests that Jewish hermeneutic tradition has produced women as the Other, taking as emblematic Moses’ speech on Sinai in Exodus 19:15 that tells the Jews to avoid women—implicitly creating Jewishness itself as only male at the very moment of the covenant. For Plaskow, women are spoken about by men, and the narratives of Torah are mediated from the start by masculinist interpretative frameworks. As she puts it, “women’s revelatory experiences are largely omitted from the sources; narratives are framed from an androcentric perspective; the law enforces women’s subordination in the patriarchal family” (20).
This androcentric perspective of the Torah produces a different kind of heteronormativity for women to that which regulates sexual contact between men. The infamous prohibition in Leviticus 18:22 refers only to male homosexual behavior—“thou shalt not lay with mankind as with womankind”—there is no exact prohibition against sexual contact between women in the Torah. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition contains a substantial amount of homophobia directed at women, for instance, in famed medieval rabbinical interpretator Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud’s Yevamot 76a.2 Eleventh century philosopher and halakhic (Jewish law) interpreter Moses Maimonides (known as the Rambam) wrote in his Mishneh Torah that “there are women in your community who rub against each other” and warned (male) readers to keep their wives from women “known for these acts” (Sefer Kiddushah, Hilchot Issurei Be’ah 12:8).
But in the face of this, Plaskow insists on the necessity of women learning to re-read texts and rituals, “to insert ourselves into silences” and “[people] the gaps in the text with women’s shadowy forms” (Standing, 1). The Book of Ruth (Rut in Hebrew) is ripe for feminist and queer re-appropriation, being one of the few books of the Hebrew Bible named after a woman. Unlike Esther, however, who is defined only in relation to the men in her life, Ruth involves a community of women. Even so, it is not easily understood as a feminist or female-friendly text. Even in their explicit textual presence, women are still remarkably shadowy.
In the light of this, texts like Ruth require an active, attentive form of close reading to their ambivalences.
The megillat (scroll) Ruth is traditionally annually re-read at the Jewish festival Shavuot, and studied at all-night Torah reading sessions. The book is often primarily received in relation to on-going Jewish discussions about conversions, with Ruth providing a textual model for convert devotion as well as the source of the Talmudic teaching to turn a convert away three times. Feminist and queer theorist Judith Butler notes this quality when she points out that Jewish hermeneutics has long understood that “the text was precisely ‘living’ to the extent that it was interpretable and that something of the text was extended and augmented with every interpretation” (Afterword, 278).3 By focusing on what Biblical texts did, we may ignore the ways in which texts are performatively re-constructed with every new reading, for as post-structuralist Gianni Vattimo points out, “the sacred texts which mark our religious experience are handed down to us by a tradition, [whose] mediation does not allow then to survive as unmodifiable objects” (Religion, 88).4
Though midrash itself occupies an important role in the Jewish tradition, modern writers have often been hesitant to engage in midrashim of their own. The warning of Deuteronomy 13: 1, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it” has often been interpreted to mean the expansion or contraction of the 613 mitzvot of Jewish law. Unlike, for instance, the expanding domain of kashrut (kosher) dietary laws, whose expansion is considered to create a fence around Torah rather than add to it, revising or rejecting those mitzvot which touch on gender, sexuality, family and reproduction is often profoundly threatening. Orthodox feminist scholar Tova Hartman notes that among Modern Orthodox communities, “integration of secular madda [science] and knowledge is not applied indiscriminately and universally, but selectively” (8) and that feminism has largely been excluded from orthodoxy.5 To engage in feminist and queer re-reading of Tanakh remains fraught, therefore, even among liberal Jewish communities whose textual interpretative norms may not match up with their political commitments.
Hartman has pointed out that “the nonreligious often cannot accept or perhaps do not perceive what in the eyes of many religious women is a simple, intuitive truth: feminism has not so far offered a positive spiritual framework that stands up against the richly textured experience of religious life” (3). This may sometimes be true. However, the late turn of pioneering queer theorist Judith Butler’s turn from her earlier gender-centred work of Gender Trouble (1990) to the ethical resources of Judaism from Precarious Life (2004) onwards provides a richly textured Jewish philosophy suitable for religious life. Butler’s work on language and speech, norms and power, and her investigations of the limits of what it means to be human and what it means to grieve and be grieved make her an ideal partner for analyzing not only what Ruth does as a text in the present but for speculating on what Ruth could do in widening the boundaries in religious thinking about what constitutes a livable, lovable, grievable life.
A brief outline of the story of The Book of Ruth may be necessary for some readers. The book begins with a couple named Eliminech and Naomi from Bethlehem, who move with their two sons to Moab because of famine (Ruth 1:1). Eliminech dies (1:3), and Naomi is left with her two sons, who eventually marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth (1:4). After a decade there, the two sons Mahlon and Chilion also die, and Naomi decides to head home to Judah (1:7). Orpah and Ruth beg to leave with her, but Naomi tells the two that they will be doomed to life as spinsters, for she has no sons who the two could marry (as per Jewish tradition). Orpah acquiesces, returning home to Moab. But Ruth instead stays with Naomi, convincing her with an extraordinary vow of fidelity promising inseparability until death. Ruth and Naomi then travel to Judah, where the two live together, gleaning food from the fields of the wealthy. At Naomi’s urging, Ruth meets and wins the heart through various contrivances of a near kinsman of Naomi’s named Boaz, who she marries and has a child with.
The book of Ruth, then, is primarily a story of loss. It begins in the loss of Israel’s ability to sustain its inhabitants, and in a cultural dispossession in the exile of Naomi’s family. Moab is a despised country, despised for not helping the Israelites in the Exodus and for hiring Balaam to curse Israel. Torah prohibits marrying a Moabite in Deuteronomy 23:4 in unequivocal terms—“no Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted into the congregation of the Lord; none of their descendants, even in the tenth generation, shall ever be admitted into the congregation of the Lord.”
If things have begun badly, a decade later, things are even worse. Naomi has lost her husband and her two sons, leaving her with two daughters-in-law. Naomi’s grief is stark and clear. “I went away full, and YHWH has brought me back empty” (1:21). She asks her daughters-in-law:
Return, my daughters; why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they should be your husbands? Return, my daughters, go, for I have become too old to marry, that I should say that I have hope. Even if I had a husband tonight, and even if I had borne sons, Would you wait for them until they grew up? Would you shut yourselves off for them and not marry? No, my daughters, for it is much more bitter for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me. (JPS)6
Naomi has lost everything. She has nothing left, with no-one to support her and nothing to offer her daughters-in-law. She takes on a new name, Mara, bitterness, as a sign of her dejection. As a widow, she occupies a place on society’s margins, a position precarious enough that Isaiah 1:17 proclaims “uphold the rights of the widow”—a commandment that would be un-necessary if widows were already treated well. As Jewish feminist theologian Rachel Adler puts it, “she is a disconnected person, unclaimed by any and having claims upon none” (149).7 It is no wonder she feels deserted by God.
Butler and mourning
Ruth can be analyzed through reference to the work of queer theorist Judith Butler, whose work has persistently tried to delimit the grounds through which gender and sexuality are produced through a framework of grief and loss. In Precarious Life (2004), her most sustained examination of the subject, she states that “loss and vulnerability seem to follow from our being socially constituted bodies, attached to others, at risk of losing those attachments, exposed to others, at risk of violence by virtue of that exposure” (20).8 Loss is a universal condition in Butler’s theories, it is a necessary condition of bodily and psychic vulnerability. Butler asks, “is there something to be gained from grieving, from tarrying with grief, from remaining exposed to its unbearability and not endeavoring to seek a resolution for grief through violence?” (PL, 30) In this story about bitterness (Mara), it is well worth asking what kinds of losses are being avowed and disavowed, what kinds of mourning are possible, what attachments are formed and unformed.
In Precarious Life, Butler re-reads Freud’s theories on grief and melancholia, pointing out the changing nature of his thoughts on the matter. Initially, in “Mourning and Melancholia,” Freud had thought that mourning is completed when a new love object is found, when devotion has been transferred to another.9 This would be the dominant reading of the Book of Ruth. Ruth loses her husband, and eventually finds a new love object in the form of Boaz. In a similar vein, Naomi loses her husband and child, and though she does not find a new husband, replaces her sons with Ruth’s new son. This would be one reading of 4:17, when the neighborhood women proclaim “a son has been born to Naomi.”
Later in Ego and The ID, however, Freud revises his theories. Mourning in the later formulation finishes in incorporation, when the subject has incorporated the loved object into themselves. Yet incorporation also remains associated with melancholia, and it is this that more clearly marks Naomi’s grief, which is incorporated in a rather literal way in the taking of a new name. Butler suggests that mourning is “when one accepts that by the loss one undergoes one will be changed, possibly for ever” (PL, 21). Mourning is accomplished by transformation, a transformation that “cannot be charted or planned in advance” (PL, 21) because one can never truly know who one is or will be. For Butler, selves are interdependent, constructed through relationality. “Who ‘am’ I, without you?” (PL, 22) she asks poignantly.
Who “are” Ruth and Naomi? The naming in Ruth has a decidedly allegorical feel, with all of the characters given significant names. Elimelech means “God” (Eli) is a sovereign (melech), while Machlon (sick) and Chilion’s (frail) name refer to their sickliness. The death of Elimelech is in some ways the death of God, the death of the symbolic patriarchal order. After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi (“pleasantness”) takes on the name Mara, which comes from the Hebrew word for bitterness, marim. The word first appears in the Torah in the story of Exodus 15:22–26, where the Israelites after fleeing the Red Sea came to Mara, where they could not drink its bitter water. God intervenes, throwing a tree into the water, making it sweet. Mara’s bitterness is a bitterness against God, who “brought me [Naomi] back empty”.
In his analysis of the Exodus passage in Intertextuality and Midrash, religious scholar Daniel Boyarin points out that “the adjective marim, here [that is, in Exodus] translated as ‘bitter,’ is very similar to a verb which means ‘rebellious’” (Intertextuality, 59).10 Boyarin reads the Exodus story about the waters of Mara, and the double readings employed by the rabbis of the Exodus midrash Mekilta to resolve the ambiguities of the passage. He suggests that, given the similarities between the terms marim and hamorim (rebels), which was used by Moses in a parallel narrative about the Israelites rebelling due to lack of water, “all of these subtexts provide strong motivation for reading the verse as, ‘They could not drink water from Mara, because they were rebellious, and that is why it is called Mara’” (65). Naomi’s rebellion, therefore, can be interpreted as her rebellion against God.
If it is clear that loss is one of the dominating motifs of the Book of Ruth, I propose that it may also be considered a key into the secondary controversy about sexuality in the book. Rabbinical interpretators have struggled to find a use for Ruth as a source of law (halakhah). The Ruth Rabbah midrash states plainly:
R. Ze’ira said, “This scroll [Ruth] tells us nothing either of purity or impurity, of the forbidden or the permitted. For what purpose was it written? To how great is the reward of those who do deeds of loving-kindness (cited Adler,156)
The midrash seems to locate an oddly opaque quality in Ruth, finding the text unable to be easily interpreted. The law is suspended itself by Ruth, super-ceded by the extra-legal quality of chesed, generosity. Adler suggests that the story is almost entirely marked by irony, which is as Paul de Man once said, “a problem that exists within the self” (Blindness, 211).11 Slippery and elusive, this is a story that is not exactly queer, though it is not exactly not.
The exact nature of Ruth and Naomi’s relationship has long been the subject of speculation and heated scholarly debate. Ruth’s vow to Naomi is commonly read at marriage and civil union ceremonies, gay and straight, as a statement of intense commitment. Evidence for homoeroticism has been found in a reading of 1:14, where the Hebrew word used for “clave” is the same as that used for marriage in Genesis 2:24 (Wernik Real Homosexual, 55).12 Further, in 4:24, Ruth’s love of Naomi is mentioned, while love for her husband Boaz goes unremarked upon. Yet, heterosexual relationships remain the only explicitly described in the book. Christian theologian Uri Wernik suggests that readings attempt to claim Ruth and Naomi as homosexual “must be pretty desperate to deny more obvious interpretations” (Real Homosexual, 58).
We know from historiographical work of the likes of Michel Foucault and David Halperin that “the heterosexual” and “the homosexual” as inherent identity-forming characteristics emerged in Europe in the nineteenth century. Foucault famously argued in the first volume of The History of Sexuality that, “the sodomite had been a temporary aberration, the homosexual was now a species” (43).13 “Heterosexuality” is as anachronistic as “homosexuality” when applied to ancient texts, yet there is little public reticence in applying that anachronism in certain political debates, or indeed implicitly in religious hermeneutics. Indeed, most would simply argue that the story begins with one heterosexual marriage and children and ends with another, a movement that detours through loss to a final redemption. It seems impossible to situate Ruth and Naomi as lesbian or bisexual in any straightforward fashion.
Yet, perhaps that is part of the point. I propose that one of the costs of this loss-to-healing narrative is a queer love of which only traces remain. For Butler, mourning takes place against a backdrop of generalized melancholia and unrecognized loss. She asks, “how do our cultural frames for thinking the human set limits on the kinds of losses we can avow as losses?” (PL, 32). While some kinds of losses—those we recognize as human—are easily avowed and thus mourned, others are not able to be mourned, because they were never recognized as fully human in the first place. Butler numbers amongst these ungrievable not-quite-human lives the uncounted victims of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Palestinians, and LGBTI people.
So it is clear that Butler finds there to be a certain opacity to mourning, saying that when one loses, one is also faced with something enigmatic:
something is hiding in the loss, something is lost within the recesses of the loss. If mourning involves knowing what one has lost (and melancholia originally meant, to a certain extent, not knowing), then mourning would be maintained by its enigmatic dimension, by the experience of not knowing incited by losing what we cannot fully fathom (PL, 22).
One does not always know exactly what one has lost, either in mourning or melancholia. What I want to argue with regard to Ruth is that it is not merely the loss of the men that is the object of mourning—heterosexuality is in some sense a lost object. Naomi has lost her nuclear family, and the usual supports that sustain loss too. Naomi has no sons to offer her daughter-in-laws to replace their losses, no brother-in-laws to replace her own. She frames her entreaty to Orpah and Ruth to return to Moab through the loss of what queer theorist Lee Edelman has called “reproductive futurism” (No Future, 4), the heterosexual contract premised on children to come.14 Without reproductive futurism, heterosexuality is not precisely possible for Naomi, for she becomes an outcast. It is the loss of the sheltering heterosexual family that precipitates sorrow, and it is its recovery that appears to aid its healing in the Book of Ruth. Yet, there is always a cost with healing, a scar, a remainder.
As queer scholars have pointed out, there are traces of at least a potential queer desire in the Book of Ruth. Ruth’s vow to Naomi is outside of the cultural intelligibility of a heterosexual woman because of its excessive nature. “Do not entreat me to leave you” is more of a plea than a vow, yet what follows is one of the more intriguing passages of the Tanakh. “Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge” (1:16) frames their inseparability, imagining a shared home, familial closeness. The next part of her vow goes even further—“your people shall be my people and your God my God.” Her devotion to Naomi becomes a bond that weaves in nationality/ethnicity (“your people” being a rough amalgam of the two) and religion. Here identification with a beloved Other becomes intensified to the point of eroticization. “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth ends with a promise before God: “So may the Lord do to me and so may He continue, if anything but death separate me and you.” Rabbi Yohanan in the third tractate Bava Batar derives the meaning of the name Ruth from the root RWH, meaning “to saturate,” (48) and it is hard indeed to imagine a more complete form of devotion to a beloved.
Moreover, it is a vow that makes little rational sense. Rachel Adler points out the indifference of this vow to the usual economic regime of reciprocity, for Ruth gives her fidelity to Naomi expecting no tangible reward. Naomi is quite right in her initial assessment of her lack of prospects for herself, let alone her daughters-in-law. Two women, alone, who will survive by gleaning leftover grains from fields, one of them a despised Moabite. It is not only far from a comfortable life, it is a profoundly precarious one, so much so that Boaz says to Ruth “did I not order the youths not to touch you?” This statement implies that violence of some kind, most likely sexual, was meted out against poor women unless otherwise protected by a man. The vulnerability implied in this statement is severe, but it is a familiar one for many women, where even meager means of survival are accompanied by the threat of male sexual violence. It is worth underlining, therefore, this is an economy which does not have any space for women’s independence. Ruth’s fidelity to Naomi in this circumstance is all the more extraordinary, then. It is a moment so intense, so irrational and opaque in its motivations, that we might well consider it a moment of alterity, of Otherness to the usual heterosexual-patriarchical economy of life.
Yet for all that she is taking on, Ruth does not even receive an acknowledgment of her vow from Naomi. After Ruth’s extraordinary vow, Naomi falls into silence, she “stop[s] speaking to her” [Ruth]. This has been interpreted by some scholars as a silence motivated by resentment and frustration. Or, we may see read literally and see Naomi’s silence as simply a form of acquiescence to the inevitable. Rachel Adler has proposed that one possible etymology of the Hebrew word for widow (“almanah”) is silence—“unable to speak, silent, bound” (Engendering, 149). Naomi’s silence may function as a kind of redoubling of her widowhood, a kind of powerlessness in the face of loss.
Adler suggests that “no expectation has destroyed more friendships or more marriages” (Engendering, 151) than that of reciprocity. Adler tarries with Naomi’s grief, suggesting that “sometimes good and loving people are too depressed or tormented to give” (Engendering, 151) and that unilateral generosity is the only ethical response in such circumstances. We know this is a vow, because it is all framed in the future tense. It is a promissory note of future behavior, of unbreakable bonds, of devotion up until after death. Its use as a common vow used at marriage ceremonies is a tacit acknowledgment of the potential eroticism and potency of the vow. But Naomi has nothing to give in return, yet.
Besides Ruth’s vow, there is another significant trace of queer desire that emerges in the narrative. When Ruth gives birth to a son, the focus is oddly not on her new husband Boaz, but rather on Naomi and the social relations of the women’s community they inhabit:
“And the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the Lord, Who did not deprive you of a redeemer today, and may his name be famous in Israel. And may he be to you a restorer of life and to sustain your old age, for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, bore him, and she is better to you than seven sons.” And Naomi took the child and placed him in her bosom, and she became his nurse. And the women neighbors gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi,” and they called his name Obed—he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. (4:17)
It is a curious cry from Ruth and Naomi’s neighbors. Adler points out that “maternity in the Bible is not usually difficult,” wondering if Ruth has abdicated her motherhood for Naomi, or if the two are to be co-mothers (lesbian mothers?).
Perhaps even more queer readings are possible from this resonant phrase. Perhaps here we can see one of the “shadowy forms” of women’s subjectivity Plaskow discusses becoming momentarily solid. The child is born to Naomi, and images of nursing aside, the sign of Naomi’s patrimony in verse 17 seems clear. Naomi takes on the patriarchal Name of the Father—psychoanalytic terms. This echoes obliquely Butler’s notorious reading of the “lesbian phallus” in Bodies That Matter which suggests that the phallus is disconnected from the penis, phallic functions from maleness. By contrast, the lesbian phallus is plastic, transferable, and resignifiable.15 In her relationship to Ruth, who is “better to you than seven sons,” Naomi becomes, simultaneously, something of a (metaphorical) husband, and something of father, a plastic re-combining of the phallic functions of both.
Yet it is clear that the queer traces in Ruth are precisely only that, traces. For Butler, the mere fact of identity construction is itself grounded in a universal condition of loss, most notably in the form of gender and sexual identities. In The Psychic Life of Power, she argues that cultural gender intelligibility has been in part produced by the unconscious foreclosure of homosexual attachments, and “I have never loved” a member of the same sex that disavows the losses (“I have never lost”) accrued in the production of heterosexual identity (23).16 Butler uses the term foreclosed, because this is a “preemptive loss, a mourning for unlived possibilities” (PLOP, 139). In other words, heterosexual genders are produced as “opposite” by the repression of the mere possibility of homosexual love or desire, which is unable to be explicitly mourned because it is constituted as impossible. Butler argues that this makes heterosexuality deeply melancholic, since melancholia was for Freud the “puzzling” condition of mourning an unseeable, undetectable lost object (Freud Reader, 584). For Freud, a “homosexual stance” means not remembering precisely because of never knowing.17
Indeed, because of the role of melancholia in the construction of heterosexual genders, the mere recognition of queer desires threatens to undo the self. Butler states that, “the fear of homosexual desire in a woman may induce a panic that she is not a woman, no longer a proper woman, that if she is not quite a man, she is like one, and hence monstrous in some way” (PLOP, 136). The difficulty in reading Ruth is producing a gender-complementary pair. The Naomi-Ruth-Boaz triangle is not easily or only heterosexual, even as it has ultimately been primarily recuperated by heterosexist readings.
Heterosexual melancholia, then, is a compelling way to register the traces in Naomi and Ruth’s relationship without recourse to misleadingly certain signifiers like “lesbian” or “homosexual.” While “widow” is a clearly gendered role, it contains a certain ambivalence given its social marginality. Phylis Trible, after all, notes that the problem for the text is not who is Ruth, but whose is she? (cited Adler Engendering, 151). Boaz “acquires from Naomi all that belonged to Eliminech” (4:10) and his sons, including Ruth, who gains the more solidly gendered role of “wife” while Naomi becomes the child’s “foster mother” (4:16). Beginning from a shared sense of mourning for the loss of their family, Ruth and Naomi are by the end bound together with the double “I have never loved” and “I have never lost” incurred in the production of heterosexual gendered identities.
Ruth is ultimately the story of two women attempting to make a way where there was none. Ruth’s vow opens up a brief utopic space for unconditional generosity, yet it is clear that the path to survival and social legibility lies with another man (ultimately, Boaz). Traces of queer desire and same-sex love emerge but are ultimately thwarted. While there is ample room for her mourning the loss of her husband and sons, Naomi cannot mourn the loss of Ruth as a potential partner, for the accomplishment of mourning (and new love objects) is premised on the renunciation of same-sex love. Finally, not only is there is no cultural space to articulate such a love, but there is no path to survival without heterosexuality. Indeed their very being human is conditioned on queer impossibility, formed through the kind of heterosexual melancholia described by Butler,
Yet melancholic foreclosure need not be the fate of women today. Judith Plaskow writes of a future world, where “marriage” will not be about the transfer of women or the sanctification of potential disorder through the firm establishment of women in the patriarchal family, but the decision of two adults—any two adults—to make their lives together, lives that include the sharing of sexuality (Standing, 200)
This is not the world of Ruth, or even quite our own, though perhaps if we truly learn the lessons of Ruth—living with the grief of the past, unexpected and excessive generosity—as well as traversing melancholia, it might open up before us yet.
Piece originally published at Luvah Journal |
Judith Plaskow, Standing Again on Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990).
See Reena Zeidman’s work for a good introduction on the place of lesbianism in Jewish law. Zeidman, Reena Zeidman, ‘Marginal Discourse: Lesbianism in Jewish Law’ Women in Judaism: An Interdisciplinary Journal 1 (1997), n. pag.
Judith Butler, ‘Afterword’ in Bodily Citations: Religion and Judith Butler, edited by Ellen T. Armour and Susan M. St. Ville (New York: Columbia, 2006), 276–293.
Gianni Vattimo, ‘Trace of the Trace’ in Religion, translated by David Webb (Polity, 1998), 79–95.
Tova Hartman, Feminism Encounters Traditional Judaism: Resistance and Accommodation. Lebanon, NH: Brandeis UP, 2007.
Here as in all citations from the Tanakh, I quote the Jewish Publication Society’s translation.
Rachel Adler, Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics (Philadelphia and Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 1998).
Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London and New York: Verso, 2004).
Sigmund Freud, ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ in The Freud Reader, edited by Peter Gay (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1995), 584–589.
Daniel Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1990).
Paul De Man, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism Second Edition (New York and London: Routledge, 1996).
Uri Wernik, ‘Will the Real Homosexual in the Bible Please Stand Up?’ Theology & Sexuality 11:3 (2005), 47–64.
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Volume One: An Introduction, translated by Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1990).
Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham and New York: Duke UP, 2004).
Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York and London: Routledge, 1993).
Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (Stanford, Stanford UP, 1997).
Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Trans. John Reddick. London: Penguin, 2003. (1940).
Dr. Emily McAvan teaches cultural, media and gender studies at Murdoch University and Curtin University, both in Perth, Australia. Her work on religion and culture has appeared in print in The Journal of Literature & Theology, The Bible and Critical Theory, and The Journal of Postcolonial Writing.