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dc.contributor.advisorMcKinlay, Judith E.
dc.contributor.advisorMeadowcroft, Tim
dc.contributor.advisorHarding, James
dc.contributor.authorSong, Angeline, Mui Geok
dc.identifier.citationSong, A., Mui Geok. (2013). Encountering Moses and Miriam of Exodus 2: An Empathic Reading with a Postcolonial Optic (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from
dc.description.abstractThis thesis presents a reading of the characters of Moses and his sister in Exodus 2 through a “hermeneutic of empathy’’ with a postcolonial consciousness. This approach emerged out of reflection about the reading process and in particular the question about why an Asian reader like me could feel such a profound connection with a Hebrew/Egyptian baby and his sister. Further readings and research revealed that it was due to my empathic connection with them. Empathy is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon which involves both cognition and affect, it has a biological basis, and it is often accompanied by an ability to connect inferentially with the other’s inner emotional state. Empathy also has as its key feature, a strong similarity bias; it is often easier to empathize with literary characters whose personal circumstances or life experiences have significant similarities to ours. In my case, I empathize with Moses because I too was saved through adoption by a single woman of a different (sub)ethnicity and socioeconomic class. A mediator also played a crucial role in the case of my adoption, just as in Moses’. As a female biblical scholar, I identify closely with Moses’ sister whom I shall call Miriam, following tradition. We are of the unprivileged gender and we both grew up under the shadow of Empire in a distinctly patriarchal culture. Since the impact and implications of my personal postcolonial experiences inform the particular “shape’’ of my empathic consciousness, my hermeneutical lens thus comprises a distinct postcolonial optic. Through the above hermeneutic, which is additionally undergirded by Mieke Bal’s focalization methodology, I interpret Moses as a hybrid identity, who due to his unique beginnings, suffered “internal convulsions and contortions’’ and had a confused self-identity. The Hebrew man with an Egyptian name crosses borders and boundaries, both ideological and physical, in search of self; he gives a hint of his internal state of being at the end of the narrative in the naming of his son. I read Miriam as a shrewd slave girl who understood the dynamics of the imperial context she was in. Out of what I call the “Pragmatic Prowess of the Powerless,’’ she had to play the colonial game, couching her words in a diplomatic mixture of deference and persuasion, adopting a subservient posture in order to save her brother. Miriam mimics aspects of the Princess’ speech in order to align herself with the dominant race, thus achieving her aims within the boundaries imposed on her, in contrast to her brother. But, I query, had it all come at too high a personal cost? In conclusion, the study has two foci: the key insights derived from the reading itself as highlighted above, and second, the establishing of a theoretical structure for an empathic reading. My interpretation of the Exodus 2 narrative demonstrates how such an approach can reveal important aspects of the text and characters not previously identified, or hitherto neglected or ignored.
dc.publisherUniversity of Otago
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dc.subjectExodus 2
dc.subjectMieke Bal
dc.subjectHomi Bhabha
dc.subjectsocial location
dc.subjectmimic men
dc.titleEncountering Moses and Miriam of Exodus 2: An Empathic Reading with a Postcolonial Optic
dc.language.rfc3066en and Religion of Philosophy of Otago
otago.openaccessAbstract Only
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