“And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai”: R. Crumb’s pro-feminist interpretation of Sarah in the Bible

Domoney-Lyttle, Z. (2019) “And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai”: R. Crumb’s pro-feminist interpretation of Sarah in the Bible. In: Worden, D. (ed.) The Comics of R. Crumb: Underground in the Art Museum. University of Mississippi Press: Jackson, MS. (Accepted for Publication)

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Abstract

In 2009, R. Crumb produced a singular work: The Book of Genesis, Illustrated by R. Crumb, which purports to be a faithful, graphical interpretation of the book of Genesis from the Hebrew Bible. Among other sources, Crumb states that he used Robert Alter’s translation and commentary on Genesis to inform his work, along with the King James Version (KJV), the Jewish Publication Society Version (JPS) and Sarah the Priestess: The First Matriarch of Genesis by Savina J. Teubal; from those, he produced his own interpretation together with annotations to explain his interpretive decisions. Remediating or adapting ancient texts into modern graphical comic books affects the reception of the text in many ways, but also offers both comics creators and readers different interpretive spaces within which they can allow different readings of texts to emerge. Such spaces are arguably affected by the way in which creators read and interpret original sources, as well as by the understanding and application of comics’ tools and resources employed to create the comic book remediations. This paper will investigate Crumb’s utilisation of various comics tools and resources in his remediation of Genesis, arguing that his interpretation of the biblical text is presented through careful visual and textual decisions. I argue that these decisions in turn present the matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah) in Genesis, Illustrated as strong, dominant characters who are cast as potential leaders in an otherwise patriarchal world. This is a characterisation which subverts both biblically-traditional readings of the women of Genesis, as well as expectations of Crumb as an author. Accusations of misogyny and sexism have followed Crumb throughout his career, but, I argue, do not stand when the reader is presented with his pro-feminist matriarchal remediation of the biblical text.

Item Type:Book Sections
Status:Accepted for Publication
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Domoney-Lyttle, Dr Zanne
Authors: Domoney-Lyttle, Z.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Publisher:University of Mississippi Press

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