Heaven is a space on earth: Friendship and the Book of Ruth

Varsamopoulou, Maria (1996) Heaven is a space on earth: Friendship and the Book of Ruth. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis seeks to establish that the relationship between Naomi and Ruth in the book of 'Ruth' is one best interpreted - for feminist purposes - as one of 'ideal' friendship. I will show that Naomi and Ruth's friendship is the context within which their agency is expressed and their full humanity illuminated. In order to provide the theoretical criteria for such an interpretation I will be bringing into my reading Aristotle's model of perfect/ideal friendship which he develops in books eight and nine of his Nichomachean Ethics. The resulting dialogue will provide a revision of both Aristotelian theory and modern biblical exegesis of 'Ruth'. The book of 'Ruth' has been interpreted in ways that emphasise extra-textual considerations such as genealogy or divine providence despite the centrality of the women's role in the story. Furthermore, most feminist readings often project modern ideals of womanhood onto the text which equally obscure the subversive potential of the story as one in which female bonding determines plot development. On the other hand, theories of friendship have equally excluded women despite the equally strong presence of such ties in reality and in fiction. Starting with Aristotle and continuing with the Roman and Humanist tradition, I will show that the history of writing on 'ideal' friendship compromises this ideal on three levels. First, the overt exclusion of a female presence as such and with it, any hint of femininity - as traditionally defined and established as a set of 'essential' traits - have produced theories which emphasise a disembodied, rational ideal. Last, the belief in self-sufficiency further marginalises women and compromises the potential of 'ideal' friendship as a basis for an egalitarian society. Both discourses - biblical exegesis and philosophy - will be shown to suffer from androcentric biases which have colluded in preventing an interpretation of Naomi and Ruth's relationship in terms of friendship. My reading will illustrate why the model of friendship these women project re-defines existing androcentric models and provides a more inclusive theory and practice of friendship on which community may be modeled. By shifting the focus of the relationship from kinship to friendship textual nuances take on meanings which support a gynocentric reading and give way to a feminist literary interpretation of the narrative. The interpretative framework throughout the thesis supports a redefining of concepts such as 'virtue', 'good', 'self, 'identity', 'duty', 'freedom', and 'difference', so that they are compatible with a feminist viewpoint and produce a revisionist reading of the book of Ruth in which a utopian vision of community is projected. If Naomi and Ruth's actions are seen to proceed from feminist model of friendship - in its 'ideal' form, non-hierarchical, mutually beneficent and responding to emotional need as well as intellectual engagement - they become alternative models of community not only for women but as a goal for all humanity.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: David Jasper
Keywords: Biblical studies
Date of Award: 1996
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1996-71845
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 09:31
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71845

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