“In the book of Job, we find that the experience of trauma, precisely because it shatters one’s assumptive world and its cultural expressions, including in literature, can unleash creative forces for the critical reexamination of literary and religious traditions, on the one hand, and, on the other, for the imaginative reconceptualization of the self, the world, and God on the ruins and with the rubble of the very same shattered traditions. ”
The biblical book of Job is a superbly accomplished literary work of ancient Israel. It is also a book that bears the unmistakable marks of trauma. Not only does the book engage in feverish debates on everything from anthropology to zoology with existential urgency, it is also shot through with troubling gaps in plot and logic, sudden shifts in genre, inexplicable interpolations and displacements, and other signs of disruption that correspond, at the level of text, to the effects of traumatic experience on the human mind and body. These observations have suggested for many that Job is trauma literature and that trauma—it is difficult to say what exactly—underlies the conditions of text production and thus the text itself. Surprisingly, however, no book-length study has been written that explores how trauma may punctuate the literary history of the book or explain its considerable philological, literary, and theological challenges. My book project will fill this lacuna by adapting a range of relevant trauma theories to interpret Job in its ancient Near Eastern milieu and, at the same time, by developing a novel model for understanding trauma as a creative force for literary and theological innovation. That is, I will contribute to the understanding of an important work of world literature and religious thought and to the theoretical development of trauma studies.