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Description - The Curse of Cain by Regina M. Schwartz

Regina 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 Details

ISBN: 9780226742007
ISBN-10: 0226742008
Format: Paperback
(228mm x 155mm x 18mm)
Pages: 228
Imprint: University of Chicago Press
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Publish Date: 1-Sep-1997
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - The Curse of Cain by Regina M. Schwartz

Book Reviews - The Curse of Cain by Regina M. Schwartz

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."

Books By Regina M. Schwartz

Loving Justice, Living Shakespeare by Regina M. Schwartz
Hardback, November 2016
Remembering and Repeating by Regina M. Schwartz
Paperback, March 2011
Transcendence by Regina M. Schwartz
Paperback, May 2004