Elaine James – Song of Songs

Episode: It’s time for part 2 of our journey into biblical poetry, this time with the inimitable Elaine T. James. Matt L. talks with Elaine about the poetry of Song, the relationship between humans and the land, the absence of God from the book, conceptions of bodily beauty in the book & … well … you’ll just have to listen! Our conversation springs from her book Landscapes of the Song of Songs: Poetry and Place (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Guest: Elaine James is Assistant Professor of Theology of St. Catherine University in Minnesota. She teaches and researches the Hebrew Bible, examining its significance in its ancient context and its legacy for the contemporary world. Her speciality is in biblical Hebrew poetry, especially the love poetry of the Song of Songs. She is interested in how artistic literary practices shape ethical and theological thought.

Since joining the faculty of St. Catherine University in 2013, Professor James has taught Old Testament at undergraduate and graduate levels. She also teaches Women and the Bible, Theological Questions, and several courses for the CORE curriculum. She serves as Vice-President of the Society of Biblical Literature’s Upper-Midwestern Region. (from the St. Kate’s website)

Book: In this masterful new study of the ancient poetry of The Song of Songs, Elaine T. James explores the Song’s underlying interest in the natural world. Engaging with the fields of geography, landscape architecture, and literature, James critiques the tendency of scholars to reify a perceived dichotomy between “nature” and “culture” and instead argues that the poetic attention to landscape indicates an awareness of a viewer. Nature is here a poetic device that informs James’s close-readings of agrarianism, gardens, cities, social control, and feminism and the gaze in the Song. With this two-fold emphasis on landscape and lyric, Landscape of the Song of Songs shows how the Song persistently envisions a world in which human lovers are embedded in the natural world, complexly enfolded in relationships of fragility and care. (from the publisher’s site)

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