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Adam Naming the Animals: Three Views of Genesis and Literary Theory

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Brad
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since 08-20-99
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0 posted 11-03-1999 02:58 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Don't know if anybody's interested in this but I thought it was hilarious:

Genesis 2:19

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name therof.


Traditional interpretation:

Adam sitting on a pleasant green slope while orderly animals file slowly past under a clear and sunny sky. By extension one can equally well imagine the naming of particulars in the vegetable and mineral kingdoms with angels of the lower order bringing samples of each kind to Adam.

Structuralist interpretation:

Adam is looking from some distance at a disorderly gathering of creatures dimly illuminated by wavering torchlight and perhaps raising a dust that conspires with the night to obscure them.  Adam's task is to pick out as many kinds as he can, never being sure that two that look alike should bear the same name or that he has given names to all.  Nor can there be anything final about the process: once he is expelled from Eden, the creature he encounters will no longer be simply pleasant companions, but potentially harmful or useful, and therefore new groupings will suggest themselves.  In short, there is no transcendental order of elephants or Platonic Idea of grasshoppers.  Whether we distinguish between crickets and grasshoppers or even between grasshoppers and elephants is a matter of our own purposes.

Poststructuralist interpretation:

It is as if angel or devil -- I prefer Derridevil -- came to Adam after the Fall arguing that there had never been a Garden of Eden:  Adam had never been cast out but was always absent from it, for if it had ever been present to him  he would not have required language, the signature of absence.  Such an argument would finally arrive at the conclusion that there are no animals to name, and no Adamic self to name them -- only language 'inhabiting' a hillside.  And of course if Adam had challenged: "How can you be explaining this to me since in naming me and allowing me to name you, you are deferring the possibility of our presence," the answer would have been, "Right, we are two traces confronting each other across the uncanny abyss."

Or, alternatively, the Derridevil might have argued: "Well, now, in addition to losing your happy habitation, I've come to tell you tht you believe in something you never had: language.  It isn't really possible, you know.  How could God have told you to create language by doing things like naming animals without Himself using language?  You can't  really imagine an origin for language, can you?  Besides, look at the absurdity: here a snake, there a snake -- but they are not the same snake.  Even this snake is not the same as the one you looked at a minute ago -- because the one you looked at a minute ago was not the one you looked at a minute earlier.  Moreover, when you tell Eve about this snake, the snake you are talking about will be absent, whereas this one is present.  You won't even be thinking of the same thing: she obviously responds to snakes rather differently than you." And who can doubt that  if Adam had asked the Derridevil, "How is it you can explain all this to me if there's no language," the answer would have been ready.  "I'm only speaking under erasure; I'm allowed that under diabolic license."

Wendell V. Harris

[This message has been edited by Brad (edited 11-16-2001).]

Marilyn
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since 09-26-1999
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1 posted 11-05-1999 10:55 AM       View Profile for Marilyn   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Marilyn

I am sorry that I have missed this thread Brad. Thankyou for pointing it out to me. At the moment I have nothing to say about this...lol. I will have to reread and think before I respond. I do not have the time right now because I am at work. Just wanted you to know that I did see it.
Munda
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2 posted 11-07-1999 05:26 AM       View Profile for Munda   Email Munda   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Munda's Home Page   View IP for Munda

Amazing, isn't it, how a story changes by a different interpretation. : ) Hilarious indeed ! : )
Brad
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3 posted 11-07-1999 07:04 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

And how serious people take this stuff. This is one aspect of what people call the 'Culture Wars' -- as if the questioning of readings and re-interpretations have not been part and parcel of literature and religion since they began. I sometimes wonder how deeply people are unsettled by this thing we call interpretation.
Munda
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4 posted 11-08-1999 08:23 PM       View Profile for Munda   Email Munda   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Munda's Home Page   View IP for Munda

Hmm, I guess that depends on the personality one has, but aren't we all "guilty" of interpretating things to our own life experiences ? The exact same thing may happen to you and me and we'll experience it differently, as we had different lives and therefore a different interpretation. : )

Munda
Brad
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5 posted 11-09-1999 03:18 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I'm curious if anyone has even heard of the terms I use here. If you have never been involved with academics (in oh say the last twenty years), do structuralism, post-structuralism, Critical Theory, neo-Pragmatism, Post-colonial theory, Cultural Studies, Deconstructionism, New historicism, Queer theory, and/or Gender Studies actually mean anything to you?

How about sub-altern studies?

There are others but they go by more traditional names. I think it's funny that when you're in Grad. school, you can get so caught up in this stuff, you forget that nobody really knows what you're talking about and probably don't care.

Brad

Munda
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6 posted 11-09-1999 06:37 AM       View Profile for Munda   Email Munda   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Munda's Home Page   View IP for Munda

????????????? : ) I'm lost ! : ) Never been involved with academics. : ) Not even in Dutch. ; )
Brad
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7 posted 11-09-1999 11:26 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Munda,
Not one? Geez, what have I been doing with my life? This stuff determines PhD candidates.

Brad
Brad
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8 posted 11-16-2001 12:38 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I popped this up because Serenity asked.  

Brad
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9 posted 11-16-2001 01:13 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

And Serenity thanks you.

AND? GIVE A GIRL A COOKIE AND SHE'LL ASK FOR A GLASS OF MILK.  

Just a suggestion, but for people such as myself, why don't you do a weekly tutorial on such things?????? I always MEAN to look stuff up, but I am more likely to remember in the context of "conversation."

I KNOW it's alot to ask, but you are here anyway, and using the terms, anyway, so splain them with examples. I'm just the type that's gotta know Brad, lol...I was the "How come?" kid in my family....  
Brad
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10 posted 05-18-2007 11:22 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Popping this up again as a companion piece to Jim's.

Yes, it's a popper for me.
Essorant
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11 posted 05-19-2007 12:45 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Why didn't God create Eve earlier, so she could help Adam name the animals?
Mysteria
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12 posted 05-19-2007 01:24 PM       View Profile for Mysteria   Email Mysteria   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Mysteria

Good question Ess, and it would have gotten done a lot quicker I would bet.       At least they would have been given better names, and been spread around the world more. Personally, now were I Eve, I'd have sent some of those cute meerkats to Canada.  What did we get? A moose!

I have to agree with Serenity on the issue of finding a topic to discuss here, such as this one.  That topic will be retained way better during a conversation than in reading about it, at least with me.

Oh, and Brad said, "How about sub-altern studies?

There are others but they go by more traditional names. I think it's funny that when you're in Grad. school, you can get so caught up in this stuff, you forget that nobody really knows what you're talking about and probably don't care."


We have a new television show called, "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader."  Well Brad, I finished university way back when, and I am here to tell you that I would fail miserably on this show let me tell you!    
 
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