Below is an interview with the fantastic Caroline Blyth. And for those of you who like Caroline and her research interests as much as we do… check out the details below.
On Monday 17 November, Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) Visiting Scholar, Dr Caroline Blyth (University of Auckland), will give ‘The Delilah Monologues’ at the SIIBS research seminar at The University of Sheffield. The paper will look at the influence of the biblical character of Delilah in contemporary popular culture. The seminar will be hosted by the Hidden Perspectives project and the paper will be followed by a drinks reception.
The seminar schedule can be found at the SIIBS website.
-What will the paper you present at the HP seminar be focused on?
My paper, ‘The Delilah Monologues’ considers the biblical character of Delilah from some ‘queer’ or alternative perspectives, and questions some of the assumptions about her gender, sexuality, and ethnicity that are so often made in both biblical interpretation and her cultural afterlives. I’ve tried to do something a wee bit different in this presentation – as the title suggests, it’s written in the first person, with Delilah doing the talking. It’ll be up to me on the day to ‘channel’ her as best as I can (the audience will have to use their imagination…)
-What triggered your interest in this topic?
Back in 2011, I was asked to teach a lecture at Auckland University on Delilah in popular culture – I’ve been hooked ever since. She’s such a fascinating character and is swathed in ambiguity within the biblical text. There are so many different ways to make sense of her, so I’m intrigued as to why she is most often depicted as an exotic and deadly femme fatale and what this tells us about cultural attitudes towards female sexuality and gender expectations. Looking at Delilah queerly can open up new ways of seeing her and lets us challenge some of these toxic assumptions made about women and women’s sexuality that underlie her receptions in both biblical interpretation and popular culture.
-What current and future projects are you working on?
Lots! I’m in the process of co-editing two books – first of all, Sexuality, Ideology, and the Bible with Robert Myles, which is a collection of queer readings of the Bible from scholars in the Antipodes. I’m also editing a book, Art and the Bible: Oceanic Perspectives, with my colleague at Auckland Uni, Nasili Vaka’uta, which will be a collection of essays about (mainly contemporary) Oceanic art and artists that engage with biblical themes. Lastly, I’m working away on my Delilah book, which – like my presentation – takes a closer look at Delilah’s biblical characterisation and her ubiquitous presentations in pop culture as a femme fatale.
As to other plans, I want to develop some projects in the near future that focus on the engagements that exist between gender violence, pop culture and the Bible. It’s a topic I’ve written about before and one I keep going back to because I feel so strongly about it. I’m hoping that while I’m in Sheffield, I can get the ball rolling with this – maybe with some Hidden Perspectives help!
-Will you be in the UK again anytime soon?
I’d LOVE to come back to the UK in the not too distant future. I’m sure I will always be able to find excuses to come over, particularly as I know so many fabulous and talented biblical scholars here. And what’s wrong with mixing business with pleasure?
– Can we have a sneak preview of the lecture you’ll give on 17 November?
Yes, here’s an abstract:
Who is Delilah? How well do you know her? You may have met her in the biblical text of Judges 16, where her character is riddled with gaps and ambiguities; you may also have encountered her through her many cultural afterlives in both biblical interpretation and in literature, film, music and art, where these gaps and ambiguities are typically ‘filled out’ to present us with images of Delilah as an exotic, erotic, and deadly femme fatale. ‘The Delilah Monologues’ considers some of these afterlives and compares them with alternative, or ‘queer’ readings of her character, questioning some of the assumptions so often made about her gender, sexuality and ethnicity and offering some fresh insights into this fascinating and elusive literary persona.
Dr Caroline Blyth (University of Auckland) specialises in the areas of gender violence in the Bible and contemporary culture; Bible in popular culture – textual representations of gender, sexuality, and the female body, and the Bible in art and literature – cultural texts as modes of biblical interpretation. To stay updated with Caroline’s work, follow her on Twitter @CazBlyth