Contents of spoon-archives/french-feminism.archive/Lubbock.abstracts/berkowitz

Abstract for French Feminism Across the Disciplines THE WOMAN SAW THAT THE TREE WAS DESIRABLE, OR, REVELATION IN POETIC LANGUAGE Charlotte Berkowitz In POWERS OF HORROR, Julia Kristeva reads maternal abjection as the concealed source of alienation at the heart of the Torah, or Law. But the Torah problematizes Kristeva's insights in a number of significant ways. This paper illuminates some of those ways. First, it recalls both the etymology of TORAH (which, in fact, does not mean "law," but "teaching") and the liturgy that traditionally allies the text with the book of Proverbs' female figure of Wisdom, an ancient mother goddess: "She is a tree of life." Then it explores the garden of Eden story in light of Kristevan theory and Robert Alter's discussion of the Hebrew biblical narrative as a self-reflexive "process" to show that the text can be experienced as a "trial" that overcomes abjection by restoring to language the Desire for connection through the mother with all life. This explanation discovers strategies by which the "teaching" both questions man(kind)'s linguistic capacity to know--and thus to name--itself and all life and, implicating the reader, transposes one sign system with another to restore the connection of one to the other. These strategies include an alliance of "telling" or "narration" with the feeding of ADAM ("a human being," "humanity") from the tree of knowledge of good and evil by "the woman" whose gestures are motivated by her "desire" and a structural patterning that blurs the borders between such seemingly discrete images as the two Edenic trees. This affiliative system of "relation," in effect, re-forms the law (knowledge of good and evil), marrying it to the immortal ("tree of life") to reconceive human identity in terms consonant with "woman's desire."

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