Blood on the tracks: Biblical law and sacrifice in the eighteenth -century English novel

Penelope Hope, University of Rhode Island


Because novels reflect history as well as art, this work seeks to identify the historical origins of gender bias—the categories of Male Law and Female Sacrifice—as they are characterized in Defoe's Roxana (1724), Richardson's Clarissa (1747), and Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764). This work locates the source of gendered law in the Judeo-Christian Bible, and traces its linear operation from its inception on Mt Sinai, to its absorbtion into early Christian rituals and texts, to its influence on England's Protestant revolution, and finally to its embodiment in English fictional characters. Analyzing gender-structure in the Pentateuchal covenants, this project compares the monotheistic ordering of God and Nature, Male and Female, Israel and other, with the Male/Female enmity that characterizes the early fictional household. Following Derrida, stress is laid on the ongoing operation of the Hebrew Shibboleth, the X sign that images the Word/Body alterity underlying the western text. Applied to the biblical Logos and its fictional projections, the Shibboleth clarifies: (1) the function of the biblical deities as the Law/Sacrifice halves of a genderized pair, and (2) the recreation of that marriage in the fictional ethos, where biblicized gender roles reify the father/son inheritance of blood and property that was begun in the Book of Exodus, and that was reflected in the bourgeois, mercantile/social themes of the eighteenth-century novel. ^

Subject Area

Religion, Philosophy of|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Penelope Hope, "Blood on the tracks: Biblical law and sacrifice in the eighteenth -century English novel" (1999). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9945203.