Terrible Silence, Eternal Silence A Consideration of Dinah’s Voicelessness in the Text and Interpretive Traditions of Genesis 34
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In this thesis, the author takes a journey through both biblical and contemporary patriarchal cultures, contemplating the commonality of rape survivors’ experiences across space and time, and, in particular, evaluating the insidious and pervasive influences of patriarchy, which have long served to deny these women a voice with which to relate their narrative of suffering. Consideration is given to some of the common contemporary cultural attitudes and misperceptions regarding sexual violence, commonly known as ‘rape myths’, which appear to be rooted within the deeply entrenched gender stereotypes of patriarchal cultures the world over, and which survivors of sexual violence regard as lying at the very heart of their own voicelessness. The author examines the means by which these rape myths silence victims of sexual violence, then, using these myths as a hermeneutical tool, evaluates whether they are likewise given voice within both the text and interpretive traditions of Genesis 34, a biblical narrative recounting the rape of Jacob’s daughter Dinah. When these myths do appear to be represented within this narrative, consideration is then given to the impact that they may likewise have had upon Dinah’s own experience of her violation and thus, upon her ability to share her story. Moreover, the author evaluates the representations of Dinah in her interpretive afterlife, assessing the ways in which biblical interpreters may or may not appeal to these same myths in order both to attend to her silence and to make sense of her experience. This thesis therefore has two primary aims. Firstly, there is an attempt to paint a picture of the world in which Dinah experienced her sexual assault, by casting light upon the attitudes and ideologies that she would have faced from others within her own community. In addition, consideration is also given to the narrative world, which Dinah continues to occupy in the minds of those who read her story, by looking at the responses she has received and continues to receive from this interpretive community. This thesis therefore attempts to provide a deeper insight into Dinah’s own experience of sexual violence, in order that contemporary readers can better comprehend the meaningfulness and complexity of her silence and grant to it a rich and new meaning.