A socio-rhetorical critique of some feminist ideological readings of the Song of Songs
Author(s)Ndoga, Sampson S.
KeywordsBible. O.T. Song of Solomon - Criticism, interpretation, etc.
Feminism - Religious aspects - Christianity
Feminism - Biblical teaching
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The Song of Songs has been considered a key platform for feminist liberative causes. The purpose of this study is to critique such feminist ideological readings of the Song of Songs, because of the apparent contradictions among feminist advocates. This study encapsulates itself in Postmodern fashion to account for reader centred interests. The exercise involves a close reading of the text, paying special attention to the poetic features in the Song as well as the presumed (feminist) readerly interests. While the entire spectrum of the Song is reflected, the study confines itself to the analysis of the exordium (introduction 1:2-2:7), which is reiterated in the peroratio (conclusion 8:5-14), a correspondence noted by a number of structuralists. The scope, therefore, mainly makes room for feminist ideological interests other than the traditional readings of the Song of Songs, which have been adequately explored elsewhere. The analysis of the texts in question combines insights from classical rhetoric with a 'newcomer' Socio-rhetorical criticism, which allows an integrated scientific approach of reading and rereading texts from various angles. Thus, various disciplines, social scientific, rhetorical, postmodern and theological criticism work together in generating a rich environment for textual analysis. The method also permits for the various 'textures' within a text (namely, inner, inter, social and cultural, ideological and sacred), to be explored individually, then synthesised to form a meaningful interpretation. Conclusive findings from the described exegetical exercise is weighed against feminist readings, readings which demonstrate how texts construct readers and vice versa. Pertinent questions arising out of the ideological readings are not ignored, such as: What exactly does an ideology implicate? Whose reading is decidedly the best reading of the Song of Songs? Or, is there such a thing as the best reading of a text? Does the Song of Songs itself prescribe a particular ideological reading? It was found that although the feminist 'voice' is very conspicuous in the Song, the male is also and constantly 'there'. The Song does not celebrate supremacy of either of the gender, but mutuality and equality.