If one of the many ways out of trauma’s impact is through words, then why not use a theory closely attached to words and their impact alongside current trauma theories in understanding historical narratives? In Trauma Talks in the Hebrew Bible: Speech Act Theory and Trauma Hermeneutics, Alexiana Fry utilizes a diverse methodology of speech act theory and trauma hermeneutics to argue for a more fluid and holistic approach in re-interpreting narratives in the Hebrew Bible. Examining a more dissociative “objective” manner in reading, each chapter asks the question of “what about our own bodies?” Purposely provoking attunement with oneself to embrace “empathic unsettlement,” the book refuses to give any semblance of finality. Through the many types of performative utterances and traumas both individual and collective—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Ecclesiastes, and Hosea—Fry investigates the varied layers that constitute their many meanings. The reader is invited into an awareness and openness that is the human experience in biblical studies.
Alexiana Fry is postdoc scholar at the University of Copenhagen.
Introduction: Standing on Chicken Legs
Chapter One: An In-Between Hermeneutics: Fluid Methods for Polyvalent Passages
Chapter Two: Hashtag Does Her Body (Still) Speak: Judges 19 and Hosea
Chapter Three: Moral Injury, YHWH, Saul, and a Witch: 1 Samuel 28
Chapter Four: Qoheleth’s Coping Cries as Instruction: Ecclesiastes 7
Chapter Five: We are All Witnesses: Joshua 24
Conclusion: Evolving Together
About the Author
Fry’s work reminds us that trauma reveals itself in category-defying ways throughout all parts of the Hebrew Bible. With Fry’s transdisciplinary blend of literary criticism, trauma study, speech act theory, and modern novels and films, troubling texts such as the Levite’s concubine, Gomer’s violent marriage, and King Saul’s fate show the ethical complexity of traumatic texts and the ways that these biblical texts affect their readers and call them to act in response to traumas both past and present.
Brad E. Kelle, Point Loma Nazarene University, author of The Bible and Moral Injury: Reading Scripture Alongside War’s Unseen Wounds (Abingdon, 2020)
Fry makes sophisticated use of speech act theory and trauma theory, arguing that trauma resists the kind of closure and determinacy that speech acts attempt to create. Instead, she advocates reading “in the middle of the thick,” sitting with the text’s failure to arrive at closure. Fry does more than provide trauma-informed interpretations of biblical texts, or even a methodology for arriving at them. She shows readers how to avoid the safety valves of resolution and academic distance and how to cultivate the persistent willingness to dwell in the fog of trauma’s many ambiguities. Her work is generous and brave, and it belongs in any conversation about the Bible and trauma.
I loved this book! One of the best experiences of being a teacher is seeing a student going off in interesting new directions, returning to teach you. From the opening chapter with its fascinating engagement with GennaRose Nethercott’s novel, Thistlefoot with its poignant metaphor of the house on chicken legs to deal with the trauma inflicted by Longshadow Man, to conversations between Shrek and Donkey to illuminate speech act theory, Fry’s monograph Trauma Talks offers fresh perspectives on the field of trauma Hermeneutics as it intersects with speech act theory to bring to life old texts in powerful new ways. Essential reading!
As much as trauma and speech act evade monosignification and stable categorization, Fry’s Trauma Talks in the Hebrew Bible presents a clear, accessible, and compassionate exposition of the two interconnected subjects, all without losing sight of their compound movements. Exchanging academic sterility for human complexity, Fry moves us through the thick traumatic contexts of the Hebrew Bible and the equally thick speech acts its traumas conjure. I echo her own invitation within the monograph: stay awhile.