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Title: 'Whoever lost children lost her heart' : valourised maternal grief in the Hebrew Bible
Author: Kozlova, Ekaterina E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 4220
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Recent studies on ancient Israel's mortuary culture have shown that mourning rites were not restricted to the occasions of death, burial and subsequent grief but were, in fact, implemented in diverse contexts. In this thesis I am looking at biblical traditions in which these solemn practices contributed, or sought to contribute to various forms of social restoration. More specifically, I explore the stories of biblical grieving mothers who are placed at key junctures in Israel's history to renegotiate the destinies not only of their own children, dead or lost, but also those of larger communities, i.e. family lines, ethnic groups, or entire nations. Since 'the social and ritual dimensions of mourning are intertwined and inseparable ... [and] rites in general are a context for the creation and transformation of social order', these women use the circumstance of their 'interrupted' motherhood as a platform for a kind of grief-driven socio-political activism. Since maternal bereavement is generally understood as the most intense of all types of loss and was seen as archetypal of all mourning in ancient Near Eastern cultures, Israelite communities in crisis deemed sorrowing motherhood as a potent agent in bringing about their own survival and resurgence back to normalcy. I begin my discussion on mourning rites as tools of social preservation and restoration in biblical traditions with (1) a list of modern examples that attest to a phenomenon of social, political, and religious engagement among women that stems from the circumstance of child loss; (2) a survey of recent grief and death studies that identify maternal grief as the most intense and the most enduring among other types of bereavement; (3) an overview of ancient Near Eastern cultures (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Hatti, Syro-Palestine) that not only viewed maternal grief as paradigmatic of all mourning but also utilised ritual actions performed by mothers in contexts of large scale catastrophes as mechanisms for dealing with a collective trauma. Against this background my project then turns to discuss four biblical mothers: Hagar (Gen. 21:14-21), Rizpah (2 Sam. 21:1-14), the woman of Tekoa (2 Sam. 14:1-20) and Rachel (Jer. 31:15-22), all of whom perform rites for their dying or dead children and exhibit a form of advocacy for society at large.
Supervisor: Williamson, Hugh G. M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Women ; Biblical studies ; Hebrew ; Architecture ; Art ; mourning rights ; maternal grief ; Hebrew Bible