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Death and Survival in the Book of Job Desymbolization and Traumatic Experience by Dan Mathewson

Death and Survival in the Book of Job Desymbolization and Traumatic Experience


Death and Survival in the Book of Job Desymbolization and Traumatic Experience by Dan Mathewson

The Book of Job functions as literature of survival where the main character, Job, deals with the trauma of suffering, attempts to come to terms with a collapsed moral and theological world, and eventually re-connects the broken pieces of his world into a new moral universe, which explains and contains the trauma of his recent experiences and renders his life meaningful again. The key is Job's death imagery. In fact, with its depiction of death in the prose tale and its frequent discussions of death in the poetic sections, Job may be the most death-oriented book in the bible. In particular, Job, in his speeches, articulates his experience of suffering as the experience of death. To help understand this focus on death in Job we turn to the psychohistorian, Robert Lifton, who investigates the effects on the human psyche of various traumatic experiences (wars, natural disasters, etc). According to Lifton, survivors of disaster often sense that their world has collapsed and they engage in a struggle to go on living. Part of this struggle involves finding meaning in death and locating death's place in the continuity of life. Like many such survivors, Job's understanding of death is a flashpoint indicating his bewilderment (or desymbolization ) in the early portions of his speeches, and then, later on, his arrival at what Lifton calls resymbolization, the reconfiguration of a world that can account for disaster and render death - and life - meaningful again.

About the Author

Dan Mathewson is Assistant Professor of Religion, Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina. He earned his Ph.D. from Emory University, where he was a Fellow at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry. Dan's research interests connect biblical studies to the fine arts, death studies, popular culture and theory.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th July 2006


Dan Mathewson

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T.& T.Clark Ltd an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


214 pages




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