Leviticus, Deconstruction and the Body

Francis Landy


This paper is a contribution to a discussion of feminism,
deconstruction and embodiment at the Canadian Society for Biblical Studies
Meeting in June, 1999. I briefly align and contrast deconstruction, as a
practice of resistance to totalizing discourses, with feminism, as a practice of
resistance to totalizing hierarchies. I then engage with three student responses
to a course I taught on Leviticus, as part of the dialogic of biblical studies
(and certainly deconstructive/feminist ones). In one, I discuss Leviticus as
pornography, in the context of the nexus between prohibition and desire, and pay
especial attention to the points where Leviticus changes subject position. A
second concerns land, imagined in anticipation and retrospectively from exile,
as the object of memory and frustration, and speculates on the sexual imagery of
sacrifice. A third turns to narrative in Leviticus, in particular that of
24.10-23, as potentially destructive of the whole rhetorical enterprise of the
book, which posits a static society. In my conclusion, I express distrust of
pure deconstructive or feminist programs, and turn to the paradox that Leviticus
is both a text preeminently about the body, and profoundly phallocentric.

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