Esther Regina

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ISBN 978-0-8101-2459-2

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ISBN 978-0-8101-2458-5
Publication Date
December 2007
Page Count
216 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Esther Regina

A Bakhtinian Reading
Andre LaCocque

In Esther Regina: A Bakhtinian Reading, distinguished scriptural scholar André LaCocque deploys the analytical frameworks of Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin to analyze the book of Esther. Readers and scholars often question the inclusion of the book of Esther in the canon. The book’s flagrant displays of hatred, deceit, violence, and the anecdotal grotesqueries of Purim seem at odds with many biblical traditions. Such confusion, LaCocque reveals, arises from a wrong appraisal of Esther’s literary genre.

LaCocque finds in the book’s grotesque elements—from royal banquets that last a half-year to an improbable succession of coincidences and reversals of fortunes neutralizing a planned genocide—a natural fit with Bakhtin’s description of the “carnivalesque.”

Using key Bakhtinian tools such as the dialogic, the novelistic, the chronotopic, the polyphonic, and authoring-as-creating, LaCocque rereads Esther to show how the book’s comedic mood is paradoxically proportional to the catastrophic predicament of the Jews. Here, as biblical theocentrism shifts to Judeocentrism, we see how the carnivalesque becomes subversive of the Establishment and liberating. In Esther, the underlying conviction is that Jewish survival is providential—and that antisemitism is anti-God. This is, as LaCocque tells us with a nod to Aristotle, a worthy lesson disguised as a "low genre."
About the Author

André LaCocque is emeritus professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the Chicago Theological Seminary and emeritus director of its doctoral Center for Jewish-Christian Studies.  He is the author, with Paul Ricoeur, of Thinking Biblically.