SOAS University of London

Centre for Jewish Studies

Illness in the Book of Job and the Health Advice of Job's Friends


Date: 18 November 2020Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 18 November 2020Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Virtual Webinar

Part of the Centre for Jewish Studies 2020-21 Evening Lecture Series

Speaker: Prof. Katherine E. Southwood, St John’s College, University of Oxford

The lecture launches her recently published book, Job's Body and the Dramatised Comedy of Moralising (London: Routledge, 2020). The book highlights the key role Job’s body plays in undermining the idea of illness as divine retribution. Job’s friends provide a wealth of moralising advice in response to his own body-centred language. In Job, the juxtaposition of bodily experience and traditional wisdom is explored in a light-hearted way, shifting from tragedy to comedy, similar to Aristophanes and Athenian theatre plays. In the dialogues, the self-righteous Job becomes ever more frustrated and this change is expressed in body-centred language. Exaggerated metaphors of divine attack and surveillance reflect Job’s symbolic protest against retribution language. In response, his friends increase their moralising talk until the comic character Elihu suggests that the wind within constrains Job. As all the characters become increasingly vexed, the audience follows the windy discussion, knowing all along that Job is blameless.

Katherine E. Southwood is Associate Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at the University of Oxford since 2013, after an appointment as University Lecturer at St Mary's University College, Twickenham. Her research is interdisciplinary, using insights from Anthropology and Classical Studies. She has published three monographs and numerous articles. She is currently program unit chair of the Society for Biblical Literature's "Social Sciences and the Interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures" unit.

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