Recovering Jeremiah : a thesis in three acts
Although Jeremiah is celebrated as the biblical prophet par excellence, the book that bears his name is deemed problematic. Courting scholarly attention with promises of a greater biographical and autobiographical content than other prophetic collections, the text is unable to satisfy the hopes of the majority of its commentators. Little concerned with thematic and chronological coherence, Jeremiah repeatedly frustrates readerly expectations-likened to a veil, it obscures as much as it reveals. Thus a dominant thread within scholarship has been a negotiation of the relationship between the veil and the prophet: securing the ipsissima verba of Jeremiah, and identifying where these have been since over sewn (scholars thereby adding to the stitch work in the process). Far from representing a curtain that is to be drawn back to reveal a prophet (and landscape) beyond, however, the book of Jeremiah offers something analogous to a theoretical event-more specifically, the theatre of Bertolt Brecht. Organising the thesis into three parts or acts I begin by considering the formal complexities of Jeremiah, likening its disruptions to the disjunctive style of Brecht's epic plays. As in the theatre of Brecht, the montage of jumps and curves in Jeremiah both foreground the texuality of representing and goad the reader into evaluation and comment. In the second act I focus on three prophetic dramas. As a distinct group of narratives, prophetic dramas are seldom studied, and rarely, if ever, brought into dialogue with contemporary theories of theatre. And so, by applying the insights of theatrical semiotics to the jug-breaking of Jeremiah 19, I can elucidate something of the mechanics of this way of making meaning. I then juxtapose this and the dramas of Jeremiah 13 and 18 with examples of Brecht's Lehstücke (learning plays) to represent the dramas as continuing rehearsals performed before an audience of interpreting reader-writers.