Let Me Hear Your Voice! Women, The Song of Songs, and Public Discourse


3-5 June, 2019

From its foundation, American culture has employed biblical texts and traditions in recurring and legitimizing the subordinate place and role of women, muting their voice and agency. This looks to be changing: women‘s voices are playing a prominent and forceful role in public discourse. The women‘s pussy-hat march on Washington DC and across the United States, the #metoo and Times Up movements, and the toppling like dominos of formerly untouchable assaulters are all landmarks urging the dignity of women and the need for deep social change. Uniquely in the Bible, The Song of Songs celebrates the voice and agency of women — domestic and erotic, natural and exotic. But it has long been marginalized by Judeo-Christian traditions, occluded by allegorical interpretations that explain away its frank eroticism, deflecting its human dimension with recourse to other discourses privileging the divine, history, or nationhood, for example. While the text of The Song of Songs enjoyed some rehabilitation during the rise of feminist and structuralist biblical interpretation in the 1980s and 1990s, such inquiry was deeply shaped by “second-wave” feminism, and has since receded from view. This conference aims to bring this text into a public dialogue shaped by the complex concerns of the current moment. It will provide a forum for religion in the public sphere, with The Song of Songs at the center of inquiry. This inquiry will move in two directions with a reciprocally informing dynamic: How might the text be a recoverable resource for public thought? How do currents in contemporary thought newly condition and challenge our understanding of this unusual ancient poetry?

The University of Chicago Divinity School,
1155 East 60th Street, Swift Hall, Third Floor Lecture Room
60637 Chicago , IL