Was God being ironic in commanding Eve not to eat fruit from the tree of wisdom? Carolyn J. Sharp suggests that many stories in the Hebrew Scriptures may be ironically intended. Deftly interweaving literary theory and exegesis, Sharp illumines the power of the unspoken in a wide variety of texts from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings. She argues that reading with irony in mind creates a charged and open rhetorical space in the texts that allows character, narration, and authorial voice to develop in unexpected ways. Main themes explored here include the ironizing of foreign rulers, the prostitute as icon of the ironic gaze, indeterminacy and dramatic irony in prophetic performance, and irony in ancient Israel's wisdom traditions. Sharp devotes special attention to how irony destabilizes dominant ways in which the Bible is read today, especially when it touches on questions of conflict, gender, and the Other.
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. Interpreting Irony: Rhetorical, Hermeneutical, and Theological Possibilities
Irony and Contemporary Methodological Debates
Method: Multiaxial Cartography
Leaving the Garden: The Wisdom of Irony
2. Foreign Rulers and the Fear of God
Pharaoh and Abimelech as Innocents Ensnared
"Am I in the Place of God?": Joseph the Pretender
Belshazzar, Darius, and Hermeneutical Risk-Taking
The Ending of Esther and Narratological Excess
3. The Prostitute as Icon of the Ironic Gaze
Tamar the Righteous
Rahab the Clever
Jael the Bold
Gomer the Beloved
Ruth the Loyal
4. The Irony of Prophetic Performance
Oracular Indeterminacy and Dramatic Irony in the Story of Balaam
Hermeneutics of De(con)struction: Amos as Samson Redivivus
Contested Hermeneutics and the Undecidability of Micah 2:12<N>13
Irony as Emetic: Parody in the Book of Jonah
5. "How Long Will You Love Being Simple?" Irony in Wisdom Traditions
Ironic Representation, Authorial Voice, and Meaning in Qohelet
Rereading Desire as Doublespeak in Psalm 73
Irony and Scriptural Signifying
Leaving the Garden Again: New Beginnings
Index of Biblical Passages
Engaging, erudite, and rich with insight, Sharp's book invites us to dwell between the said and the unsaid, to 'hear word and silence together' in a way that reveals irony at the very core of biblical tradition. This is a must-read for anyone interested in literary criticism, theory, and the Hebrew Bible.
Timothy K. Beal
Case Western Reserve University
Careful readers must be especially attentive to the possibilities [that] the biblical texts mean otherwise than what they say.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Carolyn Sharp has offered a magnificent exhibit of the thickness of the Hebrew Bible. Her work is a profound and exquisite invitation to reflect on prophetic imagination in its subtle subversion.
Columbia Theological Seminary
[Sharp] negotiates between a modernist and post—modernist understanding of the biblical text, taking authorial intent seriously while attending to textual self—subversion.
Universes hang in the balance with every act of reading an ironic sacred text'—this first line of the first chapter is the book’s 'White Rabbit,' which instantly seduces the reader to follow the author into a newly-charted wonderland of biblical rhetoric. Highly recommended . . . .Sept./Oct. 2009
Dr. Yaffa Weisman
Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, CA
[This book] offers a fascinating exploration of the the presence and the power of irony in the Hebrew bible.Summer 2009
Campbell University Divinity School