My work examines prophetic texts in the Hebrew Bible in relation to their original historical contexts. I draw on a range of literary methods in order to reconstruct how Hebrew-speaking prophets attempted to influence, through poetry, the political debates of their time. I also examine the process through which those original acts of political speech were reframed and reformulated in the course of their canonization within the Hebrew Bible.
In my dissertation, “The Prophet and the Lying Pen: Jeremiah’s Poetic Challenge to the Deuteronomic School,” I developed a new approach to reading the poetry of Jeremiah along these lines. I examined how Jeremiah drew upon and adapted prior authoritative traditions in the course of developing his own poetry. By focusing on the prophet’s techniques of citation and his patterns of rhetorical engagement, I demonstrated how Jeremiah’s own particular intention and his relationship to the historical controversies of his period could be recovered. Reading the prophet in this way, it became possible to recognize how his own speech had been transformed and at times even subverted by the scribes who composed the book that now bears his name.
More broadly, I am interested in the relationship between the operation of Hebrew poetry and indigenous Israelite forms of critical discourse. I am fascinated by the question of how the Hebrew language itself frames and represents issues of political or philosophical concern. My research draws upon the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, comparative literature, philology and linguistics in order to recover the historical interests at work at the core of Biblical traditions. I am also interested in the emergence of historically-situated practices of textual interpretation that develop out of the reading of the Hebrew Bible.
At Wellesley College, I teach courses in Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East. My primary interest is to help students learn how to read closely and with sensitivity to the unique historical and social conditions of ancient Israelite society. I recognize that it is impossible to read the Biblical text in ignorance of its extended history of interpretation, and yet, I hold that there is much to be gained in struggling to understand the text in relation to its historical point of origin.
I am a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Schools of Oriental Research, and the Association for Jewish Studies.
At present, I am writing a book on rhetorical questions in Biblical Hebrew.