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Presented By: Department of Middle East Studies

2022 David Noel Freedman Lecture

Dr. Rhiannon Graybill: "A Grittier Daughter Zion: Reading Lamentations with a Queer Survivor Archive"

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The biblical book of Lamentations is a brief but powerful work of ancient poetry that responds to the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonians in the sixth century BCE. It includes the character of Daughter Zion, a feminized personification of Jerusalem who is subjected to sexual violence. While the Bible contains many stories of raped women, Daughter Zion is almost alone among female victims in having a ‘voice” in the text. As a result, there is a pronounced tendency to treat her as an ideal and praiseworthy victim/survivor. However, this representation is both problematic and contradicted by her own speeches. In response, this talk describes Daughter Zion as a “gritty” survivor with a fuzzy, messy, and icky survival story. This survival story comes into focus when read together with other survivor texts, including Jennifer Patterson’s Queering Sexual Violence, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice, and Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House. Together, these texts form a “survivor archive” that changes the way we encounter biblical and nonbiblical sexual violence.
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