By Eryl W. Davies
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Additional resources for Biblical Criticism: A Guide for the Perplexed
Given such misgivings, it was perhaps inevitable that the attention of biblical scholars should begin to turn to the text itself rather than the author who had composed it. Studies emerged which subjected the text to close, critical scrutiny by examining the themes, images, style and structure of a particular passage or book, and it was felt that the best way to broach the text was to understand it in its own terms, unencumbered by any concern for the original author’s ‘intention’. Of course, scholars who advocated this approach were not always in complete agreement as to what form of the biblical text should be the object of study.
The authority of the text, which had been such a central tenet for the New Critics, had now been supplanted by the authority of its readers, who had installed themselves in a position of power. indd 21 11/9/2012 4:49:59 AM 22 BIBLICAL CRITICISM: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED The reader-response critics had managed to challenge the privileged status of the text, displace it from its position, centre-stage, and substitute the reader in its place. For some literary critics, this shift proved to be a liberating experience, for the tyranny of the text was replaced by the freedom of the individual reader, who now became the sole arbiter of the text’s meaning; for others, it proved to be a retrograde step, since it doomed the text to a veritable kaleidoscope of unstable interpretations.
The search for a new form of religious experience, radical though it might appear, seemed to Daly a natural and logical way forward, for although many women had abandoned all institutional forms of religion (or been abandoned by them), Daly believed that women in general still retained a deep spiritual yearning. Such yearning, she believed, could only fi nd fulfilment in an exclusively female articulation of religious experience represented by the ‘cosmic covenant’, which involved coming into living harmony with the self, the universe and God.