A structural analysis of Hosea

This post plays with the idea of structural interpretation in the sense of exposing a structure that is common to different situations.  The context is that a theology student was taking a course I co-taught on Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology.  She hoped to use perspectives of Science and Technology Studies to support a gendered interpretation of biblical texts, in particular Hosea.  As a class activity she invited us to compose a short play based on Hosea chapters 1-3.  Here is what I invented as I tried to make sense of the text (but it won’t make much sense unless you read the Hosea chapters first.)

Four characters: Narrator, SP, EP, AT.

Narrator stands on one side of a small table, with the other three on the other side.

SP stands behind EP, who faces AT.

SP has notes to give to EP at the appropriate times.

Narrator (to the audience): “Now for something completely different (Not!)” is the name of this play.  It is a play that can run itself over many times.  Today we’ll do just a few variations.

(Narrator sticks on labels on SP, EP, and AT identifying them simply by their initials.)

You will notice throughout that SP doesn’t speak directly, but does provide notes to EP.  And we’ll get to know AT mostly through what EP says.  When it is appropriate, AT will smile; at other time she’ll have reason to frown or look worried.

OK. Chapter 1 begins.

EP (speaking to AT):  AT, I feel that I would like to join you in breaking Society’s rules.  Things are in turmoil—what is to stop us pursuing our aspirations for loving, caring, co-operative, and creative relations?

(AT smiles approvingly.) 

(SP gives a note to EP.)

Narrator: Now Chapter 1 makes a twist.

EP: But, on second thoughts, count me out of your idea.  Something tells me that your aspirations will be thwarted and you’ll be held responsible for the turmoil.

Narrator: Chapter 2 begins.

EP (speaking to AT): AT, all that gives meaning for me is to be loving, caring, co-operative, and creative with others, even those with less power and fewer resources than myself.  Let us imagine solidarity amongst us in realizing what it means to be truly human!

(AT smiles approvingly.) 

(SP gives a note to EP.)

Narrator: Now Chapter 2 makes a twist.

EP:  AT, you are so naive.  You really believe that you can take matters into your own hands and make a world in the image of your own desires?  You will suffer for trying to do this—just wait and see!

Narrator: Chapter 3 begins.

(SP gives a note to EP.)

EP (speaking to AT): AT, we can make things better for everyone, despite your past missteps and mis-thoughts (some of which I may have entertained myself—but only very briefly if the truth is told).  All we have to do is to accept that Power to shape Society rests not in our hands—and to tell Power as often as we can that (turning now to face SP) “We know you always do what is best for all.”

Now let’s run the play again.  (Gives the actors a new role to stick on.  SP has YHWH; EP has Hosea; AT has Gomer.)

OK.  Chapter 1 begins a second time.

EP/Hosea (speaking to AT/Gomer):  Gomer, I feel that I would like to join you in breaking Yahweh’s rules.  Things are in turmoil—what is to stop us pursuing our aspirations for loving…

(Narrator interrupts)

Narrator:  Sorry, but time is short.  Let’s skip this re-run.  You can read the full text elsewhere in some best seller.

(Gives the actors a new role to stick on.  SP has The Market; EP has National Governments; AT has Citizens and Others.)

OK.  Chapter 1 begins one more time.

EP/ National Governments  (speaking to AT/ Citizens and Others):  Citizens and other, we can’t rely on the corporations to get us out of the economic mess that brought on us…

(Narrator interrupts again)

Narrator:  You know this story.  Let’s fast forward to the last re-run for today.

(Gives the actors a new role to stick on.  SP has Patriarchy; EP has White Heterosexual Men; AT has Women and Others. EP gets ready to speak, but narrator intervenes.)

Narrator: Actually, that’s enough for now.

Can our actors take a bow.  First, SP, or to give the full name, Structural Power.  (SP bows.)  Now EP, or Embodied Power.  (EP bows.)  Finally, AT, or Aspirations, often Thwarted.  (AT bows.)

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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