Brainstorming: (Mis-)Reading Genesis

by jdavidcharles

Just had a possible paper/research idea that I haven’t seen flushed out before, but if anyone has, feel free to let me know. I know Derrida addresses this in some of his essays and such, but it would by interesting to see a more systematic approach. I think it would be pretty great to look into the development of language and interpretation a la Derrida as layed out in Genesis (in particular, but the Torah as a whole).

Obviously, in the beginning there is the direct, intentioned, authored meaning. God speaks. Things are. Direct correlation of intention, thought, speech, act, being. The creation of Adam as monadic unity to function as an other to be spoken to. Thus the breathing. Image of god, logos, et al. Communion, i.e. a home, is established by commitment through speech—common ground—walking with god. Adam is established as one who names—the naming of creation and its creatures. This establishes a hierarchical relationship between hir (at this point Adam is “they,” both in Genesis as well as according to St. Paul—that is, there is no gender-difference—I think of Paul’s no male or female in the kingdom bit) and god as the one who speaks into being and the one who names—that is, opens up to a meaning.

Adam cannot bear a name nor be inscribed hirself though (therefore be-different, have identity) rightly without the dialectic relation of the lateral other, i.e. Eve. Enter alterity, linguistic difference, blah blah. The “transgression,” that is the break with the one-who-speaks(-into-being) is an entering of polysemic meaning—that is Eve and Adam orient themselves towards the tree, name it, in a different way than it was spoken. The polysemy is engrained further by the separate verbal curses—enter gender difference (man works, woman births).

This carries over into the transgression of murder by Cain, transgression of the commitment to the (br-)other. The (br-)other is outcast in a solidification of exterior/interior as a fundamental relation of self/other—establishment of the Jew/Gentile distinction. The tower of Babel is a going beyond polysemic meaning to Derridean dissemination. Suddenly translation exists which is to say the residue/reserve of untranslatability of a given text (irony of the attempt to dissolve difference by building “up” to god). The giving of the law represents a duel movement of unutterability, the Cloud of Unknowing, mystical experience, residual darkness, as well as the reification into law. The tension and difference between the law—the priest, arche, the natural—and the Cloud of Unknowing—the prophet, anarchy, the wilderness—is established.  Enter Derridean justice with a touch of Levinasian commitment.

Just a fun potential project. Who knows.  I don’t feel like reading that much Derrida right now though to take such a project seriously…