SCTR 165 Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation Home Page
Santa Clara University
Religious Studies Department, SCU
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Course Description

This course opens the Bible and its interpretation to critical readings from feminist and queer theory and emerging perspectives from the transgender and intersex experience. We begin by asking two fundamental questions posed memorably by Virginia Woolf in her book, A Room of One's Own: who gets to speak, and how do they know? We pose these questions to certain key biblical passages that have been and remain central in debates about the normative person, the "proper" roles of men and women, and the "natural" order. We examine "mainstream" interpretations of these passages against historical evidence and from the vantage point of groups long marginalized from the conversation, exploring how truth claims are politically and culturally constructed and therefore not true as such but useful for those who benefit (hence the frequent quotation marks). Throughout, we tend to the tension between the feminist impulse to coalition and engaged activism on the one hand, and the queer concern to disrupt rather than replace sexual norms.

Four goals of feminist discourse shape the goals of this course. The first is to help you discover, articulate, and find validation for your own voice and perspective—however you identify in terms of gender or sexuality. The second is to enhance your capacity for critical analysis of your own experience and the experience of others. The third is to cultivate a commitment to and skills for taking decisive ethical action. The fourth is to participate in and direct your own learning.

At the end of this course, you will improve your ability to

  • express your voice and theorize your experience in writing with greater clarity and confidence

  • discuss feminist and postmodern theories of the construction of knowledge

  • analyze biblical texts and their interpretations with an awareness of how social contexts and cultural positions affect the production of meaning

  • articulate the chief characteristics and aims of feminist and queer theory, and discern whether and how they can function together

  • apply feminist and queer perspectives to the Bible and interpretations of it