Item description for Wrestling Jacob: Deception, Identity, and Freudian Slips in Genesis by Shmuel Klitsner...
The book Wrestling Jacob presents close readings of the biblical stories of Jacob from both literary and psychological perspectives. The readings explore the relationship between text and subtext as reflecting the relationship between the conscious and subconscious.
On one level, this book is about Jacob's personal wrestling with his own angels and demons, his struggle to build a ladder between his own internal heaven and earth. On another level, it is about deceptions of ourselves and of others that threaten the fragile development of our identities.
Settle back and enjoy this intellectually exhilarating exploration of dreams, Freudian slips, resistances and transference, as Jacob, mirroring everyman, wrestles with men and God and struggles to be blessed.
Perhaps above all else, Wrestling Jacob introduces a new way to read the Bible, in which unusual word choices, odd syntax, and striking parallels conspire to reveal profound new meanings in an ancient text.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Wrestling Jacob: Deception, Identity, and Freudian Slips in Genesis?
Psychoanalytic close reading of Jacob story Dec 25, 2007
I heard Klitzer give a 1-2 hour discussion of the main points of his work, which is the result of many years' teaching in an orthodox seminar for women 's religious studies in Jerusalem. (Orthodox women and men cannot study together: men study in "yeshivas"; women in their own institutes.) Klitzer has an original and deep understanding of the text, as well as a keen sense of the "intertextual" relationships between one part of the Bible and another. The knowledge of these relationships as well as an application of several main ideas of early Freudian writing to the familial relationships and the personality of Jacob are applied with a deft hand along with interesting glosses on the text. I especially appreciated his surprising insights on the parapraxis at work in Hebrew, and repetitive patterns of language effects interrupting the flow of meaning. My only criticism is that it is too literal an application of Freudian concepts. At the end of the day, to rediscover repression as displacement in the Hebrew Torah is nice to know, but old hat, given all the work that has been done in literary text study of the past 30 years.
For deep background on Klitsner's intertextual strategies, the French literary theorists such as Riffaterre, Derrida and Kristeva are his origins; the closest and most important Jewish advancer of the intertextual movement in Jewish writing is Daniel Boyarin's 1990 study "Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash". It might be interesting to contrast the two, since Boyarin's thesis is that the problematics of reading midrashic texts are repetitions of the openings, gaps and tensions which arise in the Torah. However, Klitzer's reading comes too close to investing the characters of the narrative with a concrete reality instead of a simple psychic reality, and comes too close to a naive psychologism at times. Boyarin is much more sophisticated, but less accessible a critic. Klitzer's closely reasoned thesis offers more rewards in the many examples and glosses which draw upon his rich experience as teacher and rabbi.
With this slim but carefully written volume, which thankfully includes the proof texts in Hebrew, Klitzer joins a small but formidable group of extremely committed Jews who are finding ways of re-inventing our understanding of the Jewish canon by applying the insights of contemporary literary and psychoanalytic approaches to text. A truly breakout and original thinker.
He struggled with the text- and was able Sep 4, 2007
The opening chapter of this book is an elucidating treatise on a new method for closely reading the Biblical text. This method focuses on surprising uses of language, parallels with other Biblical texts and incidents, wordplays, Freudian slips, repetitions, indeterminacies. Klitsner asks "What are the subtle indicators and idiosyncratically Biblical methods for conveying motivation, attitude, feeling and moral quandary?" He rejects both Jewish fundamentalist readings of the Bible and secular literary historical ones in order to focus on "unusual word choice, ellipsis, creative ambiguity and repetition as subtle indicators of meaning." Klitsner suggests neither solving difficult language by emending it or trying to understand how the words are the `right ones'. He rather suggests that "the relationship of text to subtext is best explored when there are rough- readings, non- sequiturs, anomalous word- choices, ungrammaticalities and jumbled syntax." Instead that is of seeing textual ambiguities as result of the reader's inadequacies alone Klitsner sees them as `purposeful' and inherent in the text, indicators of latent meaning Klitsner reads the story of Jacob as one "fraught with repetitions , cycles and patterns of action and reaction." He indicates how the duplicitous Biblical hero uses subterfuge to achieve what was rightfully his and what he might have more directly gained. He reads however the inner contractions and contradictions in psychological terms as `obsessions-compulsions' in the development of the character as he strives for personal and moral autonomy. Klitsner summarizes one stage of the development as follows: " At the culmination of a repeated pattern of irrationally self- destructive manipulations , we find the previous scenes quite literally reproduced.in the Jabbok crossing." The whole story of Jacob's failings and strugglings will eventually move towards an inner transformation in which the personal identity and moral autonomy of the Biblical hero will be precariously achieved. The Yaakov of multiple- deceptions will become the Israel who can more directly struggle for realization of the Divine plan. And this when unlike other Biblical heroes whose names are transformed he will retain the former name as permanent element of his identity. In this there emerges a picture of `wrestling Jacob "who becomes fully human in and through his `struggling with God and men." The heroes of this book beside Jacob, also like him are too challenged by the divine call and covenantal destiny. Isaac, Rebecca, Moses, Balaam too all have stories in which they must assume responsibility for their own lives as they move forward the divine plan for history. One major technique used throughout this work is `intertexuality' in which `borrowed phrases' connect up different Biblical stories and enhance their readings. The subtle reading of these kinds of interconnections give us a deeper sense of how incredibly dense and artful the Biblical text is. I have been reading these texts for many many years.Nonetheless, the readings given in this work opened them up for me in new ways. The subtlety and perceptiveness of the language added to the pleasure of the reading. This is an inspiring and moving work which I believe all close readers of the Biblical text would do well to have in their libraries.