“The Name With Which You Ascend to Heaven”: Semiotic and Linguistic Ideology in the Midrash of Shemhazai and ‘Aza’el
1 online resource (50 pages) : PDF
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The Midrash of Shemhazai and ‘Aza’el may appear much like other midrashic exegetical texts that seem ubiquitous in Rabbinic Judaism. It is, however, different not only because it appears much later and is a part of a larger recontextualization concerning an angelic interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4, but also because the peculiarity of some of its plot points: the fact that a sexual encounter between an angel and a human that results in her pronunciation of the Divine Name, ascension to heaven and transformation into a star as her reward--is known nowhere else in Jewish literature. In this paper, I will focus my analysis on the human subject in the narrative, ‘Asterah. Using the lense of linguistic anthropology and, following Charles Goodwin, focusing on the ‘semiotic fields’ of the text, I argue that ‘Asterah’s ‘reward’--being installed as a celestial body, a star--is not best read as simply that her ‘purity’ is necessarily or primarily her escape of the sex act itself--but rather her bodily ascension is the removal of the threat of potential procreation, which is the main concern of the text. It is my contention, then, that an analysis of the Midrash of Shemhazai and ‘Aza’el that prioritizes the subject and the body can lead to some possible and reasonable understanding to the meaning of the narrative encounter between ‘Asterah and Shemhazai and how the pronunciation of the Divine Name is used not only to translate a human to heaven but also how it aids in her changing identity from a human subject to a celestial one.
ANGELSDIVINE NAMEHEAVENLY ASCENTMIDRASHSTARWATCHER
Hoenes del Pinal, EricBrintnall, Kent
Thesis (M.A.)--University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2018.
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