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xxxii + 295 pp.

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A Cixousian Encounter with the Song of Songs
Yael Cameron Klangwisan

This is a remarkable book that sets out to deconstruct academic writing on the Song of Songs. It emerges at that place where biblical scholarship on the Song of Songs is subverted by French literary theory, where biblical literature escapes biblical hermeneutics, and where the ancient poetry of the Song of Songs comes face to face with the modern poetry of Hélène Cixous. The question asked is whether a poetic text like the Song of Songs can be systematized, interpreted and worked out. For as much as Jouissance is a work on the Song of Songs, it is also a work about reading poetically, challenging the notion that the Song of Songs can be read at all.

In response the reader-author presents an-‘other’ kind of reading. She inhabits the text of the Song of Songs, bringing herself to it; allowing herself to be taken in its jaws, one time, and once only, and then giving it away and refusing possession. If this could be called reading, it would be live-reading: a reading of the Song of Songs that is birthed and dreamed, that joins breath with breath. This is a reading that is allowed to live.

The reader is invited via the midwifery of Hélène Cixous’s poetic texts to encounter the enigmatic poetry of the Song of Songs, its creative and transformative polysemy, engendering a ‘third body’, third text, that is reflective and multivalent, inscripted with elements that are continuous and discontinuous, as well as dynamic, mythic and subversive. Read in the spirit of Cixousian literary theory, Jouissance is a visceral-corporeal experience of the transgressive and creative act of the Song of Songs that merges the limits of language with the bliss and suffering of the beyond.

Yael Cameron Klangwisan is Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Practice, Laidlaw College, Auckland.

Series: Bible in the Modern World, 56
978-1-909697-24-9 hardback
Publication March 2015

A. A Foreword
     On Eating Scrolls
     Origins and Escapes; or, How to Eat This Scroll
     For Gifts and Gardens
B. Hic jacet
     Kaddish for a Young Jewish Saint
C. Prelude to a kiss
     Texte vivant
     The Infinite I
     The Ethics of the Naked Eye
     The Poem Drinks Me
D. ‘Prehistory’
     The Interior Shulamith
E. Icara
     The Poetess Thief
     Flying Manuscripts
F. Che vuole?
     The Week of Asymmetry
     Elle est venue sous les signes de l'océan
     A Space Odyssey
     The Door Scents Me
     Flying Too Close to the Sun
G. Peace Odyssey
H. Cirque du soleil
     Kings of Uruk
     Of Queens; or, Seven Gates
     Scène de cirque, or, Feu
I. Shibboleth
     Evocation pour Derrida
     Derrida Is Dead
     Time; or, Untenable Postscript
J. Dream Scenes
     Le champ de mars
     Le cirque bleu
     Cantique des cantiques IV
K. Adam et Eve
L. Epilogue
     Buddha and the Lime Tree

K. challenges the notion that the Song of Songs can be interpreted at all, by exposing its poetry as far more enigmatic than is widely admitted. Perhaps the true contribution of this book is the success with which the author has merged the otherwise distant languages of biblical scholarship and continental philosophy. Through a Cixousian lens, K. offers the reader a highly dynamic, mythic, and subversive picture of the Song of Songs that in its presentation alone is aesthetically beautiful. The inclusion of Marc Chagall’s works as well as careful placement of poetry make this book a delight to read. Tarah Van De Wiele, Society for Old Testament Study Book List.

Klangwisan draws on the insights of French poststructural literary theory, in particular the work of writer and philosopher Hélène Cixous, to create her own embodied encounter with the Song of Songs. It is impossible to reduce the book to a central thesis without misunderstanding the point of the work as a whole. If there is a guiding purpose, it is to confront the question of whether the poetic text of the Song of Songs can be read systematically as an object of exegesis at all. Instead, Klangwisan offers an encounter with an enigma, bringing together her own voice, the corpus of Cixous (both theoretical and poetic), and the text of the Song. The fruit of this encounter is a courageous exploration of the act of reading poetically, which invites the reader to explore their own inner reading process.

If you are hoping for a dispassionate, systematic exegesis of the Song of Songs—for a book that might prompt the occasional sage nod of the head while you stroke your (possibly metaphorical) beard—this is not the book you are looking for. However, if you are willing to be stimulated, fascinated, and delighted, then Yael Klangwisan’s work might be just the thing. Jouissance is a book to return to and ponder, one that invites you to take your own path through it, allowing your own digressions and imaginings to fly out from it. You might never read the Song of Songs in the same way again. You might never read in the same way again.
Kirsten Griffiths, Stimulus.

[T]his is no conventional disciplinary monograph. It is a risky choice to imitate as distinctive a voice as Cixous’s; Klangwisan mostly succeeds. Though she does engage at points with biblical scholarship on the Song of Songs, this occurs mostly in the notes (which reward close consultation). Her method of ‘live-reading’ shares some similarities with autobiographical criticism, though without the constraints of being bound to the author’s ‘true’ life … Jouissance also offers a take on literary theory, especially French literary theory, that is anything but the cookie-cutter application of X to Y. … [A] playful and pleasing offering. Rhiannon Graybill, Review of Biblical Literature.