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?

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