Albright College Professor earns award for Biblical Literature

Jennifer Koosed's feminist interpretation of the book of Judith wins award from Catholic Media Association.

A volume on the book of Judith penned by Albright College Professor of Religious Studies, Jennifer L. Koosed, Ph.D., and Robert Paul Seesengood, Ph.D., associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor of Bible and cultures at Drew Theological School has earned a 2023 first place award from the Catholic Media Association in the category of Scripture – Academic Studies.

The volume, released in 2022 as part of a 60-volume Liturgical Press “Wisdom Commentary” series, offers detailed feminist interpretation of every book of the Bible.

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As biblical literature excluded from Hebrew and Protestant biblical canons, but accepted in the Roman Catholic canon and included in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Hebrew Bible), the book of Judith tells the story of a beautiful Jewish widow who — under the pretense of bringing information that would ensure Assyrian victory — is invited into General Holofernes’ tent and kills him in his drunken sleep. A Jewish victory over the leaderless Assyrian forces followed.

“The striking scene of Judith cutting off Holofernes’s head with his own sword in his own bed has inspired the imaginations of readers for millennia,” writes Koosed. “But there is more to her story than just this climactic act and more to her character than just beauty and violence.”

The volume offers a comprehensive examination of gender ideologies in the book of Judith, from the hyper-masculine machinations of war and empire to the dynamics of class in Judith’s relationship with her enslaved handmaid. Overall, the new commentary investigates “Judith” through a feminist lens, informed by critical masculinity studies, queer theory and reception criticism.

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“Koosed and Seesengood offer the best of what feminist criticism has to offer in this eminently readable commentary on the book of Judith,” said Colleen Conway, Ph.D., chair and professor of religious studies at Seton Hall University. “Masculinity studies, gender theory, and queer theory are all skillfully deployed to illuminate the shifting performances of gender at the center of this book. The result is a nuanced, provocative, and fascinating analysis of the book of Judith. Readers will especially benefit from the authors’ suspicion of easy resolutions for this complex narrative featuring a wealthy, pious, seductive and slave-owning heroine.”

Koosed is the author of several books, including “(Per)mutations of Qohelet: Reading the Body in the Book” (Continuum, 2006); “Gleaning Ruth: A Biblical Heroine and Her Afterlives” (University of South Carolina, 2011); and “Reading the Bible as a Feminist” (Brill, 2017). She is also the editor of several works, including “The Bible and Posthumanism” (SBL Press, 2014) and “Reading with Feeling: Affect Theory and the Bible” (with Fiona C. Black; SBL Press, 2019).

Seesengood is a frequent lecturer and editor, and an author of several essays and monographs, including “Philemon” (Bloomsbury, 2017), “Paul: A Brief History” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) and, with Jennifer L. Koosed, “Jesse’s Lineage: The Legendary Lives of David, Jesus and Jesse James” (T & T Clark, 2013).

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