Biblical Creatures: The Animal as an Object of Interpretation in Pre-Modern Abrahamic Hermeneutic Traditions – Call for Submissions

Biblical Creatures
The Animal as an Object of Interpretation in Pre-Modern Abrahamic Hermeneutic Traditions

Deadline 1 February 2018

In recent years, the growing field of ‘Human-Animal Studies’ has done much to bring animals into the focus of a variety of academic disciplines. Pre-modern texts offer many possibilities for interdisciplinary research on the subject. In the Middle Ages, for example, Jewish as well as Christian and Muslim authors often use discourses on the allegorical meanings of animals in order to express their attitudes towards God and the world, normative religious and social orders, or interdependencies between nature and culture. In many instances, they deal with animals as carriers of meaning which are of interest to members of different religious communities because they appear in a common authoritative reference text, i.e. the Hebrew Bible / the Old Testament. The pre-modern authors’ respective hermeneutic approaches show how they develop different religious, social, political, philosophical, and scientific ideas and how they distance themselves from the other religions’ hermeneutic traditions but also exchange elements and integrate them into their own discourses.

To name but one example: What do Medieval and Early Modern Jewish, Christian and even Muslim authors make of the dove or turtle-dove which is mentioned as a potential sacrificial offering in the Bible but also appears as a messenger announcing the end of the Deluge and as a symbol denoting the beloved woman in the Song of Songs? How do Jewish scholars handle the fact that the dove is often associated with Christianity’s Holy Spirit? What becomes of the rabbinic idea that the dove symbolizes the congregation of Israel needing to take flight from danger? What stance do Jewish and Christian authors take up regarding the assumption that doves are especially loyal and faithful, and what consequences do they infer from this assumption? How does the way a dove looks figure in their interpretations? What happens with theological ascriptions when they find their way into secular texts? In what ways do new theoretical approaches to animals bring new fresh insights into biblical literature?

These and similar questions can be asked concerning many biblical animals. Jewish and Christian discussions on the symbolic meanings of these animals are especially suitable for comparative studies because both religions refer to the same religious core text which is subject to ever new exegeses and commentaries. The comparison could also include Muslim and Manichaean engagement with Biblical creatures. Medieval and Early Modern authors deal with the allegorical meanings of biblical creatures in commentaries on the Bible and in literary re-workings of the Bible, in homilies, in mystical and in scientific texts, in secular narrative literature, and in secular pragmatic texts.

Interfaces invites contributions investigating how Jewish and Christian, Late Antique, Medieval, and Early Modern scholars developed different perspectives on the animal as a carrier of religious and secular meaning. Authors will be free to address any European literature, language, genre, or text, or to work across these categories, provided they give a strong theoretical framing to their argument. Interdisciplinary, comparative, and diachronic studies will be welcome, as well as more specific analyses of single texts or small groups of texts. Contributions on the differences and interdependencies between Latin and Hebrew texts are welcome as well as studies on vernacular texts (i.e. German, Yiddish, French, English, Italian, etc.). Moreover, Interfaces would also like to encourage contributions on animal discourses in Islam and Manichaeism that draw on biblical traditions.

Interfaces invites papers in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish.