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Comedy and Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew BibleA Subversive Collaboration$
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Melissa Jackson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199656776

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199656776.001.0001

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(p.198) 10 Esther
Comedy and Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible

Melissa A. Jackson

Oxford University Press

The violent conclusion to the book of Esther has regularly resulted in interpretations in a ‘funny’/‘un‐funny’ bisection of the book. However, reading the book of Esther as farce and as a literary carnival, a form called carnivalesque, offers readings that hold the book together. The comedy of farce, with its over‐the‐top violence, and of carnivalesque, in its reliance on the grotesque, are ideal lenses through which to read the violent, grotesque, hilarious story of Esther. Esther is a story of survival, and the comedy of Esther aids that survival. As Esther does her saving work within the ‘system’, a system that ultimately replaces her with Mordecai, and, furthermore, as Esther herself replaces the system‐resistant Vashti, feminist critique has often preferred the latter over the former. Esther does much for her own people; feminist critique wishes she could have done more for her own gender as well.

Keywords:   carnival, carnivalesque, comedy, Esther, farce, Mordecai, Vashti, violence

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