Thursday, May 28, 2009

Numbers 5: It is written, It's the law (but, Oh dear, what if that were something else?)

Here below, I've continued translating Numbers 5. And have gotten to The End.

When you go there, do notice the Greek "It is written, It is the Law" in verses 23, 29. See the formation of canon ספר cepher כתב kathab - the poetic antistrophe of γράψει [εἰς] βιβλίον grapsei eis Biblion - The justice of Scripture - with the poetic justice of translation. Hear תורה Torah as πάντα τὸν νόμον panta ton nomon - The comprehensive Rule of Law. Period.

And when you get there, you'll also see I've substituted Brenton's and Flint's fine English translations (of the Jews' Greek translating of the Hebrew) for more translating (from their Greek into my English) by me. Oh dear. Dear me, it's some flipped perspective, the Bible as mirror (or light or compass, my friends).

On your way there, would you please also do something else? Maybe something even more important than getting with finality to The End? Would you read of women who write differently?

Would you read Helene Cixous replying and Michelle Baliff asking something (in Baliff's "Re/Dressing Histories; Or, On Re/Covering Figures Who Have Been Laid Bare by Our Gaze," Rhetoric Society Quarterly, v22 n1 p91-98)? In part, she says:

According to Aristotle’s aesthetics, a narrative must be arranged according to some organizing principle.... Aristotle also offers us the classificatory system of binaries to help us order our stories, to order our experiences, to order ourselves.... But perhaps Woman can (un)speak in the unthought, not-yet-thought, non-spaces produced by alternative paradigms, by new idioms, by paralogical and paratactical and, thus, illegitimate discourses. What... if our narrative had no syllogistic, metonymic, linear or triangular structure? .... What if Truth were a Woman... what then? Cixous replies, Then all stories would have to be told differently....

And would you read Rachel Barenblat making women count before Numbers 5? Here's her poem:


Take a census
family by family
listing the names
every female, head by head

record them in their groups
all those in the community
who can weave wool
and spin tales

do this with women
alongside you, each one
the recognized head
of her ancestral house

count each girl and woman
able to plant seed
and nurture new growth
to turn grain into bread

each one who can teach
the ways of her mothers
imagine if our Torah said this
how different our story would be

Now The End.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Numbers 5: Sexist Waterboarding

Below is my feminist rhetorical translating of a few paragraphs of the Jewish translation of Hebrew scriptures into Hellene. I'm trying to draw attention to several things:
  1. that the Jews rendering their holy scriptures into Greek have been playful, have taken advantage of the Homeric paradigm (which contrasts greatly to Plato's idealism - which Noam Chomsky uses for "Language" and which Eugene Nida uses for "dynamic equivalence" translation; the Homer style of language also contrasts greatly with Aristotle's binary - which Chomsky uses for "language features" and which Ernst-August Gutt uses for "Relevance Theory")
  2. that the Jewish Greek allows much play in English (and by word play I mean both interpretive wiggle room and playfulness).
  3. that the text's painful sexism doesn't need either to marginalize the body of the woman (the wife suspected and accused by her husband of unfaithfulness) or to leave the Male roles in the passage un-marked, as if they were the central and default and natural roles.
  4. that this is the Bible (the book that so many in Western culture appropriate so selectively when justifying the silencing of women and the kinds of things they must cover their bodies and their head with and when they can speak and when they must disrobe for men.)
You'll likely find other things in the translatings (both the Greek of the Hebrew and my English of the Greek). And do notice the Greek please, even if you think you don't "know" it. I've formatted and color coded and highlighted and bolded some of the Greek text. You should be able, then, to track the interlation - the translating back and forth - between Hellene and English. It's literary, it's oral-visual, it's sensory. And why wouldn't a text dealing with bodies and sex be?

For other things to notice, for more contrasts, I've included both Brenton's and Flint's translations again [Flint's with his footnotes right in the text for you].

I'd be absolutely thrilled if you'd like to make a comment or two. But then these sorts of sordid, torturous texts (about waterboarding-like sexism in the bible) are not always the things we talk about, are they?