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The Sarah Cutts Frerichs Lectureship
in Victorian Studies

April 15, 2008
“Melville’s Bibles and Victorian Perceptions of Motherhood”
Hillel Center
Brown and Angell Streets
Brown University
5:30 - 7:00pm

Many writers in antebellum America sought to reinvent the Bible, but no one was as insistent as Melville on redefining biblical exegesis while doing so.  In Moby-Dick he not only ventured to fashion a grand new inverted Bible in which biblical rebels and outcasts assume central stage, but also aspired to comment on every imaginable mode of biblical interpretation, calling for a radical reconsideration of the politics of biblical reception.

Prof. Pardes's lecture explores Melville’s choice to end Moby-Dick with an evocation of Jeremiah’s verse on Rachel’s inconsolable cry on behalf of her exiled children.  She reads Melville’s rare allusion to a biblical female figure against the background of the rise of women’s bibles and the growing involvement of women in the exegetical scene. Special attention is given to Victorian Rachels:  from the image of weeping Rachel in Harper’s Illuminated Bible to Harriet Beecher Stowe's readings of Jeremiah's Rachel in Uncle Tom's Cabin and in her less known book Women in Sacred History.

Professor Pardes is the author of the forthcoming Melville’s Bibles (University of California Press, 2008) as well as The Biography of Ancient Israel (2000) and Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach (1992). Ilana Pardes received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Click here to see a copy of the poster.

Click here for a biography of Sarah Cutts Frerichs.