Deconstructive Poetics


In the 1980s there was an efflorescence of books on the poetics of the Hebrew Bible, such as Adele Berlin Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative; Robert Alter’s two books on the art of biblical narrative and poetry; and Meir Sternberg The Poetics of Biblical Narrative. Since then, however, there has been rather little. More recent work on poetics, moreover, has tended to be formalistic, to separate structure and style from questions of meaning and interpretation. The Deconstructive Poetics research group has two objectives: i) to investigate how the biblical writers constructed their literary works through the intricate interplay of sound, sensation, argument, and symbolism; and ii) how the biblical writers simultaneously deconstructed their poetic worlds, through phenomena such as ambiguity and word-play. Deconstruction evokes the playfulness and uncontrollability of writing, the tendency of every whole to fragment, to impart the incoherence of the world. It also implies an openness to a variety of post-structuralist approaches and agendas. Structuralism was an heroic attempt to reduce all human cultural productions to a limited set of logical operations and issues. Post-structuralism is both more subjective, in that it calls attention to the plurality of readers and reading communities, and less so, since the subject him/herself is in question. Post-structuralism engages with the strangeness of the text, its resistance to interpretation, its diverse voices, the text as performance, for example of gender. Approaches to be engaged with in the group may include parapoetics, the poetics of reception, as well as stylistics and rhetorics.


Poetics, Deconstruction, Post-Structuralism, Gender, Theory


Francis Landy
University of Alberta

Hannah Strommen
University of Chichester

Member Area

Wuppertal 2021 Call for Papers

Joint Session with Anthropology and the Bible 
The Deconstructive Poetics and Anthropology of the Bible research units of the EABS invite proposals for papers for a session on the use of the concepts of sacrifice and purity in Biblical literature.  Sacrifice and purity are complementary systems: sacrifice crosses the boundaries between animal, human and God, while purity preserve the divine sphere from contamination by death and generation, the defining characteristics of the human and animal worlds.   For this year’s joint session, we invite presentations that investigate the symbolic functions of sacrifice and purity in biblical literature. We especially welcome proposals that theorize sacrifice and purity, using a combination of approaches, such as anthropology, philosophy, poetics and metaphor theory. 

Open Call
In addition, the Deconstructive Poetics section invites proposals for papers in any area of biblical studies with an orientation towards postmodern and deconstructive approaches.