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Jonah, or the Prophet At Sea: Hélène Cixous On Prophecy

100 Jones Hall

November 15, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 100 Jones Hall

Brigitte Weltman-Aron, University of Florida

Hélène Cixous has reflected on prophecy in general, and on the calling, craft, and destiny of prophets in several texts, with a predilection for Jonah, starting with her first book, God’s First Name. In one of the stories of the collection, “Jonah’s Whale,” she takes up and rewrites the Biblical Book of Jonah, in which the prophet famously starts by refusing to announce the end of Nineveh. Much has been written about Jonah’s initial disobedience and persistent frustration with God’s mission. In general terms, prophecy is not primarily characterized by Cixous as prediction or the conveying of preordained words, but as a response to a call. In her story, Jonah’s reluctance is predicated on his lack of certainty about his own name. In this early text and others, Cixous investigates acts of nomination; understanding what is puzzling in naming sheds light on her stance on prophecy and on the prophet’s condition.

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