Refractions from the book of Amos : a study of a literature of violence from Marxist and Freudian perspectives
This study of the biblical Book of Amos from Marxist and Freudian perspectives demonstrates that the critical approaches so designated complement one another well enough to be adapted and employed constructively in the study of literature and literary production. From the Marxist perspective, the method employed assumes that the literary Amos the text embodies (AmosL) has been derived from an incarnate original (AmosI) reshaped in the process of literary production to serve certain sociopolitcal interests. Following Marx’s thesis that humans must be comprehended materially in “the ensemble of the social relations,” the social location of AmosI is theorized according to the claim that he is not a prophet but a shepherd or, as Norman Gottwald states it sociologically, a transhumant pastoral nomad. Louis Althusser’s concept of the idealizing function of ideology is used to argue that Amos the prophet as opposed to Amos the shepherd is a literary production of the scribes who compiled the Bible. Amos remains, however, a profound literature of alienation manifesting the high degree of hegemony that the emerging monarchical ruling class in Israel had already achieved by Amos’s time. From the Freudian or psychoanalytic perspective, the text exemplifies a consciousness suffering the traumatic effects of an earthquake—effects reflected in the text’s imagery, intensity of voice, incoherence, anxiety, threat of exile, and non-representability. Frank Kermode’s treatment of the mythic extends the concept of the compulsion to repeat characteristic of trauma to suggest that Amos is regressively fixated upon the myth of a tribal, premonarchical Israel as a sort of golden age along the lines developed by Raymond Williams in The Country and The City. Georges Bataille’s concept of sacred violence in its turn underscores the potential of Amos itself to fuel fantasies and acts of violence and raises disturbing questions about the ongoing effects of the sacred canonization of violent literature.
trauma theory, Marxist criticism, psychoanalytic criticism
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)