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orion-list ORION: Guilty Corpses, Cultic lit, etc.


Your analysis of Judith as political fiction is plausible. Political
criticism hidden within a fictional narrative is an ancient genre; As
we can see from folk tales, it is older than written history. The genre
is alive and well today. The whole purpose of hiding political criticism
within a fictional situation is to protect the author's neck.

When the target is a political organization, e.g. Orwell's _Animal Farm_,
there is little difficulty in identification. (At least today, that is:
2,000 years from now this may not be the case.) Sometimes the target may
be thinly veiled -- as is quite possible with Judith (the name of the
heroine -- as the change of sex -- is more than a bit suspect and not an
uncommon auctorial trick). Usually, however, in the case of an individual,
it can be next to impossible to determine at whom the criticism is aimed;
we rarely have enough data about these periods.

In the case of the "War Scroll," the author went so far as to use for
his "white hat" a character out of popular theoretical fiction to hide
behind. (Script and format aside, if _haserech lekol_ were a functioning
community rule or "law" for a specific group, the document would be ca.
31-33 cm. in height. It is not; it is a "writing," i.e., ca. 23.7-26.7 cm
in height. <1> The author was so careful to mask his target that it is
useless to speculate on the name of the "wicked priest"; his name may
just as well be "Darth Vader."

There are similarities between the "War Scroll" and cultic stories, but
the "Armeggedon" theme with its final confrontations between the "Light"
and the "Dark" is extremely popular and always has been. It is not confined
to "cultic" literature. Indeed, in quite a few modern fantasy novels, the
sides are even referred to as "The Light" and "The Dark." If one wishes to
use this approach, one will have to read an enormous amount of popular
literature from antiquity right on down to today to come to any meaningful

Further, we do not know that we are dealing with a cult. Does the "Essene"
cult hypothesis hold up under reality checks? If the Essenes did exist as
an identifiable, taggable people, they were not at Khirbet Qumran. A very
simple physical and physiological reality check immediately eliminates
Qumran as an "Essene" site. As the "Essenes" were not, and _could not_,
have been at Qumran, classing those documents as "Essene" becomes extremely

One of the major problems here is the walls between disciplines and the
peculiar idea that fiction is "worthless," mere entertainment to occupy
the masses. (One turkey recently referred to entertainment fiction as
"mental masturbation.") Few people working on the DSS material can recognize
political or other fictional genres, when they run into them.<2> Political/
social criticism is a very popular theme in fiction, ancient and modern --
and in all countries. It comes in many forms and from many approaches.
Political-fiction can be overt and fantastic, e.g. Morris' _Unto His Last_
or overt and "realistic," as in Godwin's _Caleb Williams or Things As They
Are_. It can be written as fantasy-satire, e.g. Swift's _Gulliver's Travels_
or Butler's _Erewhon_. It can be quite subtle, as in Twain's _Huckleberry
Finn_, or it can be sub-rosa, as in Kipling's _The Jungle Books_." Poli-
tical fiction can be embedded in *fairy tales*. <3> Hence, it is hazardous
to concentrate on just one aspect.

I can only make some suggestions, but it might be a good idea for people
to read _Haserech lekol_ in conjunction with Plato's _Republic_ and More's
_Utopia_; and to read "The War Scroll" in conjunction with 19th and 20th
century political fiction.

<1> The Dead Sea Scrolls answer the question about the divisions of the
    Tanahk at the time. The "canon-to-be" was in two parts: Pentateuch and
    writings. The range of sizes among the "writings" is indictive of the
    level of "authority" of a given writing. 11QPs, for example, is at the
    large end: 26.2 cm.

<2> Please note that Jonah is also fiction, a shaggy-dog story. It is a
    midrash with an important moral; hence, as a "writing" of man with a
    pertinent point, it eventually became part of the canon.

<3> As understanding the references and allusions in Medieval and Renais-
    sance works requires in-depth knowledge of those periods, I have stuck
    to modern works in which most people today can see and understand such



PS: Dr. Gmirkin, the "decoration" on a shield serves two purposes. One is
to provide "flypaper," that is, the indentations and/or ribs and/or holes
catch a pointed weapon to give the shield bearer a momentary advantage while
his opponent is thrown off balance by his weapon being caught; this is the
reason why shields usually have at least a "boss." The other purpose is even
more important: instant identification. If one must have some means of catch-
ing a point and some means of instant identification in the heat of battle,
why not be decorative about it?
Dr. Rochelle I. Altman, co-coordinator IOUDAIOS-L  risa@hol.gr

[Note from the moderator: This message bounced because it was too long but
I'm letting it through because it is on topic. AP]

For private reply, e-mail to "Rochelle I. Altman" <risa@isis.hol.gr>
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