The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism

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University of Chicago Press, May 15, 1997 - Religion - 211 pages
A murderer, an outcast, a man cursed by God and exiled from his people - Cain, the biblical killer of Abel, is a figure of utter disdain. But that disdain is curiously in evidence well before his brother's death, as God inexplicably refuses Cain's sacrifice while accepting Abel's. Cain kills in a rage of exclusion, yet it is God himself who has set the brothers apart. For Regina Schwartz, we ignore the dark side of the Bible to our peril. The perplexing story of Cain and Abel is emblematic of the tenacious influence of the Bible on secular notions of identity - notions that are all too often violently exclusionary, negatively defining "us" against "them" in ethnic, religious, racial, gender, and nationalistic terms. In this compelling work of cultural and biblical criticism, Schwartz contends that it is the very concept of monotheism and its jealous demand for exclusive allegiance - to one God, one Land, one Nation or one People - that informs the model of collective identity forged in violence, against the other. The Hebrew Bible is filled with narratives of division and exclusion, scarcity and competition, that erupt in violence. Once these narratives were appropriated and disseminated by western religious traditions, they came to pervade deep cultural assumptions about how collectives are imagined - with collective hatred, with collective degradation, and with collective abuse. Recovering the Bible's often misguided role as a handbook for politics and social thought, Schwartz demonstrates just how dangerous it can be.
 

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THE CURSE OF CAIN: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism

User Review  - Kirkus

Schwartz (English/Northwestern Univ.; Remembering and Repeating, not reviewed) has written a strange, discomfiting book on the Bible's legacy of violence. The author uses the Bible as a lens to ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - stevenschroeder - LibraryThing

This provocative and timely examination of the interrelationship of monotheism and violence was precipitated by a question posed to Schwartz when she was teaching the Bible to undergraduates: "What ... Read full review

Contents

INVENTING IDENTITY Covenants
15
Imagining Israel
17
Cutting Covenants
21
The Blood of the Covenant
25
OWNING IDENTITY Land
39
Exodus and Conquest
55
Polluting the Land
62
Whore in Exile
69
DIVIDING IDENTITIES Nations
120
Nationalism in the Discipline
124
Nations in the Bible
128
Defining Israel
133
INSCRIBING IDENTITY Memory
143
Remembering the Exodus
148
The Politics of Memory
153
Forgetting
159

NATURAL IDENTITY Kinship
77
Exogamy Endogamy and the Foreigner
83
Rape and the Other
91
Incest Is Best
97
Kinship Race and Property
102
God the Father and Homosexuality
106
Joseph He Adds
162
Typology and Totality
167
Living Memory
173
Notes
177
Index
203
Copyright

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About the author (1997)

Regina M. Schwartz is professor of English and religion at Northwestern University and director of the Chicago Institute of Religion, Ethics, and Violence. She is the author of Remembering and Repeating: On Milton's Theology and Poetics; editor of The Book and the Text: The Bible and Literary Theory; and co-author of The Postmodern Bible.


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