Broken Bodies, Broken Words: Feminist theology, trauma, and the arts

Alexandra Banks

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The female experience as boundary markers for androcentric interpretations of power, gender, and sin: An Embodied Inquiry.

This embodied phenomenological study aimed to examine the impact of Eve Syndrome on the structure of allegorical silences that surround the reception histories of biblical female archetypes Eve, Hagar, and Mary. I have implemented a trauma theory framework rooted in the stages of recovery, drawing on the nature of testimony and witness to silence. This study endeavoured to reread Eve, Hagar, and Mary through trauma theory and feminist theological aesthetic phenomenology to demonstrate the distinctive interpretive suppression of female biblical trauma narratives that frames all female bodies, sexuality, familial roles and denies access to socio-political, economic, and judicial equity. I approach the complex landscape of lived experiences, somatic memories, and remaining in the aftermath of trauma by applying Shelly Rambo’s organisational domains of time, body, and word. By separating the avenues for processing traumatised linguistic, cognitive, and somatic information into the domains of time, body, and word, this dissertation suggests we might re-read Eve, Hagar, and Mary as examples of three stages of remaining in the aftermath of trauma.
The contribution to knowledge made by critiquing feminised aesthetic pedagogy consists of the confirmation of previous research on the impact of theologically styling Eve as the original temptress responsible for humanity's fall and Mary as an inimitably perfect version of femininity on women's safety. The most notable research findings of the current study suggest that: (1) by rereading the embodied experiences of the biblical characters Eve, Hagar, and Mary through the lens of trauma theology, we can identify how the integration of their embodied and silenced scriptural trauma responses have become intertwined with intersubjective and cultural contexts particularly when responding to women’s trauma narratives; (2) locating Eve, Hagar, and Mary’s embodied expressions of trauma in the middle space of an oscillating aftermath reality results in an interpretation of their narratives that interconnects their aesthetic and emotional presences with the broader ‘living body’ of humanity; (3) by articulating Eve, Hagar, and Mary’s trauma metaphorically and acknowledging their full sensory embodied post-trauma reality I offer new avenues for artistic expression and symbolism for feminised biblical bodies; and (4) through the application of a “body-based hermeneutic” of theological aesthetics I seek to create an “inclusive space of embodied dialogue” whereby survivor’s and witnesses can meet and allow new experiences and understandings to emerge from the midst of saying nothing.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Kline, Peter, Principal Supervisor
  • Mawson, Michael, Co-Supervisor
Award date16 Jan 2023
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2023


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