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Writing and Reading to Survive:
Biblical and Contemporary Trauma Narratives in Conversation
L. Juliana M. Claassens

Writing and Reading to Survive brings a number of trauma narratives from the Hebrew Bible into conversation with contemporary trauma narratives, exploring how these ancient and modern-day stories mitigate the experiences of pain and suffering in the face of trauma.

Focusing on the intersection between trauma and gender, the trauma narratives here include biblical narratives emerging from the cataclysmic events that all but destroyed the people of Judah at the time of the sixth-century bce invasion and exile. They also include examples of ‘hidden’ or ‘common’ or ‘more mundane quiet’ traumas that are reflective of women’s experience. In both biblical as well as contemporary trauma narratives, one sees evidence of insidious trauma associated with the systemic violence of a deeply patriarchal society; the secret trauma of reproductive loss that connects with many women’s lives both then and now; the ever-present reality of gender-based violence.

To read contemporary trauma narratives alongside biblical trauma narratives can have the effect of expanding readers’ vision, perhaps introducing them to texts that yield fresh insights into often painful topics associated with women’s experience of trauma. Continuing the conversation on the importance of trauma hermeneutics for reading biblical literature, the trauma narratives represented in this monograph serve as a safe haven for those, in past and present contexts, who are reeling from the effects of severe trauma, to voice the unspeakable, and to move towards healing and recovery by writing and reading to survive.

Writing and Reading to Survive is the first volume in a new series from Sheffield Phoenix Press, the Trauma Bible.

Series: Bible in the Modern World, 74
978-1-910928-78-3 hardback
Publication July 2020

Given the multiple, intersecting traumas faced by so many people around the world at present (including in Africa), Claassens’ work here is timely and important. Through her engaging and highly readable writing (which is accessible for both academic and non-academic audiences alike), she offers a valuable transdisciplinary contribution to the study of the Bible, literature, and trauma. She also provides readers with a valuable means of making scholarly study relevant and impactful beyond the confines of the academy. For that reason alone, this book is worth its weight in gold. Caroline Blyth, journal of Theology for Southern Africa.