Vol 3, No 2 (2007) Power, Eros, and Biblical Genres


Christine Mitchell


One of M.M. Bakhtin’s contributions to the study of texts was his profound distrust of formalism. In this essay, I seek to extend this insight to the study of biblical genres. As such, I work to detach the study of biblical genres from form-criticism, and to examine genre as dialogically constructed (and thus socially situated). To do so, I draw on Bakhtin’s work on dialogism, the chronotope, and heteroglossia. However, in his work Bakhtin did not clearly provide the motive or impulse for dialogism. I seek to enhance and refine a dialogic understanding of genre by reconceptualising genre as a site of politics constructed by the operation of power and eros. In this essay, I explore power from a Foucauldian perspective, seeing it as a network of discourse relations that enfolds the struggle for domination. The dynamics of power, once understood, help to understand the development of distinct genres and development within genres. In this essay, I explore eros from the perspective of productive act (Deleuze), as well as from the perspective of desire for the lacked object (Hegel, Lacan, Foucault), both understandings being ultimately Platonic in origin. Without understanding the erotic impulse, I argue that we cannot understand the dynamics of power that explain dialogically-constructed genre. In this way, this essay takes Bakhtin as a starting point and touchstone, but moves into some different areas as well.


Bakhtin; interpretation; genre


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