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Shakespeare and the Book of Job

Originally Posted on admin, November 30, 2007

News & Publications: Santa Fe

Dean's Lecture, 11/30: “Shakespeare and the Book of Job”

WHAT: The Dean’s Lecture Series

WHO: Julia Lupton, University of California, Irvine, English Department

TITLE:  “Shakespeare and the Book of Job”

WHERE: Great Hall, Peterson Student Center, St. John’s College

WHEN: Friday, November 30, 8 p.m.

COST: This event is free of charge and open to the public.

CONTACT: 984-6000

Shakespeare alludes to the Book of Job more than almost any other book of the Bible. Many of these echoes manifest the kinds of patterned thinking that travel easily from Biblical wisdom texts into the speech of dramatic characters via the random samplings of homily, liturgy, and an everyday speech knitted out of Biblical phrasings. Yet at times Shakespeare also rivets his plays more directly to the dramatic and emotional situation of Job. Shylock is Shakespeare’s Jewish Job, a patriarch de-patriarched by his daughter’s typological passage into Christianity. Othello is Shakespeare’s Gentile Job, the man from Uz who identifies his escalating isolation with an existential blackness. Lear is Shakespeare’s Father Job, the man whose suffering reaches its peak in relation to the exigencies of betrayed and benighted paternity. Finally, Timon is Job Economicus, suspending Job’s traumas of parental bereavement and physical illness in order to focus exclusively on the emotional effects of bankruptcy. In each instance, Shakespeare uses the Book of Job to test the limits of human speech as expressed in the ritualistic genres of complaint, curse, and testament; the limits of human sociality embedded in the formations of kinship, citizenship, and exchange; and the limits of human being delivered by the estate of the creature in relation to a sublime and capricious Creator.

Julia Reinhard Lupton is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. She received her Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies from Yale University in 1989. She is the author of Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology (University of Chicago, 2005), Afterlives of the Saints: Hagiography, Typology, and Renaissance Literature (Stanford, 1996), and After Oedipus: Shakespeare in Psychoanalysis, co-authored with Kenneth Reinhard (Cornell, 1992). This year, Lupton received a Chancellor’s Fellowship from UC Irvine in recognition of her scholarly contributions.