Lecture: Rhiannon Graybill (Rhodes College)

"Jeremiah and the Gender of Prophetic Sound"

This talk explores the relationship between gender and voice in Hebrew prophecy. The Hebrew Bible contains powerful norms of hegemonic masculinity, norms that the prophets at once imitate and resist. I will consider the aural as a prophetic space that challenges the norms of Israelite masculine performance. Taking as an example Jeremiah’s “Confessions” – the first-person complaints, protests, and interventions interwoven in the first half of the book of Jeremiah – I will argue that the prophet employs traditionally feminine modes of vocality and sound. This “feminine” use of sound destabilizes the otherwise masculine performance of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible while complicating the relationship between gender, body, and voice. In drawing out the subversive power of Jeremiah’s gender-bending voice, I also examine the production of sound in hysteria and the ambivalent status of the masculine hysterical voice in (and beyond) the Hebrew prophets.