Envisioning the Book of Judith: How Art Illuminates Minor Characters
Sheaffer’s interdisciplinary study is the first to combine literary and visual criticism to illuminate the role and function of minor characters in the Book of Judith.
The Book of Judith, the Apocryphal narrative of the Jewish widow who becomes a guerilla solider and headhunting hero, has fascinated and inspired readers over centuries. Weaving together literary and visual approaches, Sheaffer argues that this is a story of unconventionality and unexpected heroism demonstrated not only by Judith, but also by the minor characters in the text: an Israelite enemy displays the most faith in Israel’s God when Israel’s own leaders show the least; a nameless, voiceless slave woman prepares the way for her mistress’s success in rescuing Israel from Assyrian domination.
Sheaffer’s interdisciplinary study is the first to combine literary and visual criticism to illuminate the role and function of minor characters in the Book of Judith. Utilizing Renaissance and Baroque images as a starting point, she is able to show how minor characters function in a variety of roles in the text. They are forerunners, sustainers, inciters, and avatars of the major characters.
The conclusion drawn from this study is that minor characters are indispensable in aiding Judith’s mission. In the biblical text, God uses Judith —considered the weakest in society because of her status as a widow —as an instrument of God’s power over the enemy. Sheaffer shows that minor characters belong in the spotlight alongside the protagonist in the category of unlikely hero/helpers, emphasizing a fundamental theme in the narrative in which the underdog is championed. This approach paints fresh and enriched textual interpretation onto the canvases of Judith and the field of biblical studies alike.
Envisioning the Book of Judith contains 29 illustrations in colour.
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1. APPROACHING THE BOOK OF JUDITH AND ITS MINOR CHARACTERS Synopsis of the Book of Judith Including the Cast of Minor Characters Judith Background: Date, Authorship, Genre, and Purpose Method 2. JUDITH SCHOLARSHIP: THEN AND NOW Literary Studies in the Book of Judith Minor Character Studies in the Book of Judith Visual Studies in the Book of Judith 3. ACHIOR: JUDITH’S FORERUNNER OF FAITH Achior’s Speech Establishes Him as Judith’s Forerunner From Enemy to Neighbor: Achior’s Conversion Achior and Judith: Thematic Doubles 4. THE MAIDSERVANT: A SLAVE WOMAN WHO SUSTAINS ISRAEL’S FREEDOM The Maidservant’s Role as Sustainer in Judith’s Mission Slave not Servant: The Maidservant’s Identity Slave Life Maidservant Images: The Old and the Black African Maidservant 5. THE ISRAELITE CROWD: INCITERS OF ACTION AND CHANGE More Than a Water Shortage: A Drought of Faith Incites Judith’s Mission Solimena’s Judith Illuminates the Crowd’s Saving Action and God’s Absence 6. BAGOAS THE AVATAR: AN ACCIDENTAL ASSASSIN Bagoas’ Active, but Unintentional, Role in Holofernes’ Assassination The Role of the Eunuch and the Historical Bagoas in Antiquity Servant Parallels: Bagoas and the Maidservant 7. THE MIGHTY MADE MINOR: THE FEMINIZATION OF HOLOFERNES Holofernes’ Textual Transformation: From Masculine Leader to Feminized Recluse Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes Illuminates Holofernes’ Feminization A Headless Helper: Holofernes’ Body Aids Judith’s Mission
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