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xviii + 219 pp.

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The Matter of the Text
Material Engagements between Luke and the Five Senses
Anne F. Elvey

When the Lukan Jesus stands up to read in the Nazareth synagogue, he unrolls and rolls up a scroll. At this moment–which scholars have read as programmatic for the Gospel of Luke–the material text frames the written and spoken word. Here reading is an engagement with the senses of touch, sight and hearing. The organs of sense–skin, eyes, ears and mouth–function as mediators of the material text.

By contrast, our contemporary practices of reading as biblical scholars and critics commonly ignore the underlying materiality that is given to writing. In an ecological context where the mass production of Bibles is part of a consumerist economics that does not walk lightly on the Earth, and in an Australian postcolonial context where Bibles arrived as material artefacts of European colonizers, this book asks what modes of reading might best be suited to the materiality of the text.

Engaging with the Gospel of Luke and the five senses, The Matter of the Text enacts a mode of reading that attends to the underlying materiality of the text. Reading with the senses offers a way of imagining the mutual touching of artefact and writing and the absent presence of the material text, where matter is given to the word as a visible voice.

Series: Bible in the Modern World, 37
978-1-907534-16-4 hardback
Publication May 2011

1 Earth and Text

2 A Material Intertextuality

3 ‘I’m holding in my hand’: A Material Reading

4 Touching (on) Death: On ‘Being toward’ the Other

5 Incense and Ointment: Smell and the Absent Body/Text

6 ‘The stones would shout out...’ (Luke 19.40): Hearing and Voice

7 The Visible Voice and the Dust of Things

8 ‘So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat’ (Ezekiel 3.2): The Taste of the Text

Conclusion: Toward a Material Intertextuality

[Elvey] explores how sensual readings draw out layers of meaning which otherwise pass unnoticed or on the margins of interpretation. … [V]isual depictions of key scenes or poetry provide an introit to philological and socio-historical explorations of the significance of sense data in the gospel narratives … [A] poetic and aesthetic sensibility … produces readings which allow the texts to speak not just to the head but to the heart, and are genuinely provocative. Fergus J. King, Colloquium.