The Curse of Cain
Violent Legacy of Monotheism New edition
By (author) Regina M. Schwartz
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Curse of Cain by Regina M. Schwartz
Book DescriptionRegina Schwartz examines the story of Cain and Abel, as she sees it - emblematic of a tenacious, tragic biblical influence over Western secular notions of identity - notions that are often violently exclusionary, negatively defining "us" against "them" in ethnic, religious, racial, gender and nationalistic terms. Shwartz contends that the very concept of monotheism and its paradigms of One-ness - the demand for exclusive allegiance to one God, one People, one Land or one Nation - infuse the model of collective identity founded in violence, against the other or outsider. Aiming to recover the Bible's role as a handbook for politics and social thought, this text seeks to demonstrate how dangerous this can be.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780226742007
(228mm x 155mm x 18mm)
Imprint: University of Chicago Press
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Publish Date: 1-Sep-1997
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Regina M. Schwartz
Remembering and Repeating, Paperback (March 2011)
A 1988 study of Milton's preoccupation with origins and how these elude him.
Transcendence, Paperback (May 2004)
This volume addresses a sophisticated conceptual problem that has had strong currency in recent theological and philosophical arguments - the relationship of transcendence to power.
Desire in the Renaissance, Paperback (October 1994)» View all books by Regina M. Schwartz
Offers discussions of the ways the 'inner life' is depicted in the Renaissance and the ways it is shown to interact with the 'external' social and economic spheres. This volume features essays focusing on the fluidity of gender, the economics of sexual and sibling rivalry, the power of the visual, and the cultural echoes of the uncanny.
US Kirkus Review » Schwartz (English/Northwestern Univ.; Remembering and Repeating, not reviewed) has written a strange, discomfiting book on the Bible's legacy of violence. The author uses the Bible as a lens to explore Western culture's heritage of violence, but defines violence in such a broad way - as "acts of identity formation" and "the very construction of the Other" - that the reader is left wondering what isn't violent behavior. Indeed, the book is far more deconstructive than constructive; it is only in the last chapter that Schwartz rather generically envisions a Bible that embraces generosity and pluralism, not scarcity and a totalizing monotheism, as ethics to cultivate. The book also suffers from a certain eco-preachiness (as in such first-person assertions as "we cannot really own anything"), which systematically undermines what is truly prophetic here. Yet there is also a coldly brilliant realism at work. Schwartz writes with style and verve, gracefully teasing out new meanings from the Bible's elusive Hebrew text. Her chapters on land and kinship are as insightful as they are disturbing. Particularly significant is her connection between monotheism, land, and female sexuality: Hosea's denunciations of the adulterous wife, for example, can be understood as more than an embrace of a strict moral code. The wife (who represents faithless Israel) has also violated Yahweh's property rights, because unlike a self-respecting whore, she doesn't even receive money for her favors, but pays her lovers. The story, Schwartz argues, is a metaphor for Israel's transgression of the boundaries of monotheism, which is basically "a doctrine of possession." Ultimately, both monogamy and monotheism function to set a people apart in a covenant relationship - but, Schwartz reminds us, this otherness is always potentially violent. The construction of boundaries, Schwartz asserts, leads to nations, and then to bloodshed. Unfortunately, the few alternatives she offers are vague and touchy-feely. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Regina M. Schwartz
Regina M. Schwartz is professor of English and religion at Northwestern University and director of the Chicago Institute of Religion, Ethics, and Violence. She is the author of "Remembering and Repeating: On Milton's Theology and Poetics"; editor of "The Book and the Text: The Bible and Literary Theory"; and co-author of "The Postmodern Bible."
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