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But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation.

Schussler Fiorenza here clarifies and advances the arguments for a critical feminist interpretation for liberation found in her Bread Not Stone and also moves the discussion into the realm of rhetorical hermeneutics. She maintains that this latter step challenges the reader to use the biblical passage's rhetorical arguments against its own limited and limiting ideology. Not satisfied with demonstrating the patriarchal disposition of this ideology, she recognizes its elitist, racist, and classist character, thus identifying it as kyriarchal (master-headed).

Acknowledging her debt to liberation theologians and critical theorists relative to the question of social location of the reader, she is quite frank about her own political interests. Everyone may not share the extent of her feminist critique of society and church, but the straight-forwardness of her position provides them with an opportunity to see how her passion affects yet does not diminish her scholarship.

The book is envisioned as a spiraling dance of three main movements: strategies of feminist biblical interpretation; feminist rhetoric of liberation; practices of biblical interpretation. She uses dance as a model to represent her approach, since interpretation is not accomplished in a purely linear fashion but, rather, consists of strategies that must be repeated again and again much like the patterns of a fugue or a dance. This "transformative dance of interpretation" includes intermittent appearances of the hermeneutics of suspicion, of remembrance, of evaluation and proclamation, and of imagination. Other poetic devices structure the work, such as naming the chapters after biblical women who "embody" elements of the method, introducing each chapter with a poem that serves as an "optic" through which the specific theoretical deliberations are viewed.

After briefly explaining several current strategies of feminist biblical interpretation, S. draws the contours of her own method which she identifies as a critical feminist rhetorical approach. Her fundamental concern is that the kyriarchal biases not be reinscribed in contemporary interpretation. To this end she utilizes both historical and literary critical methods to uncover the rhetorical function of the text within its historical context, and then suggests the use of creative forms such as storytelling, bibliodrama, and dance to fashion a different historical imagination within which to recontextualize the message of the text.

Concerned about the rhetorical power of the biblical tradition, she insists that interpretation must be sensitive to the social location of the interpreter and to the power structures operative here as well as to the situations of the original communities. Such a critique liberates the text from any kind of positivism or formalism and opens it to multicultural interpretations. At each step in her argument, she explains her method quite theoretically and then demonstrates it with either her own interpretation or the work of one of her students.

This is not a book to read; it is a book to study. The development of her thought is both precise and well documented, but nonetheless complex. The image of a spiraling dance is a good choice for, while her argument is linear,

different themes move in and out of the discussion only to reappear at another turn in the dance. Readers have come to expect penetrating critique, creative theologizing, and intricate literary articulation from this author. They will not be disappointed here.
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Author:Bergant, Dianne
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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