As a feminist and literary critic of the Hebrew Bible, Dr. Powell’s research interests include the interrelationship between biblical narrative and history, with sustained attention to questions of desire, trauma and identity formation.
Her current research is focused on the subject of “narrative repair” in response to the Bible’s legacy of trauma.
Dr. Powell is the author of Narrative Desire and the Book of Ruth, forthcoming in February 2018 by Bloomsbury T&T Clark Press. Related to this project is her co-authored chapter (with Amy Jones and Dong Sung Kim), “Reading Ruth, Reading Desire,” in TheOxford Handbook to Biblical Narrative (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
With Amy Jones, she has also co-authored “Rizpah: A Midrash on Grief,” forthcoming in Bridge Work: Conversations between the Bible and Practical Theology by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
About Narrative Desire and the Book of Ruth:
The book of Ruth is known as a tale of two courageous women, the Moabite Ruth and her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi. As widows with scarce means of financial or social support, Ruth and Naomi are forced to creatively subvert the economic and legal systems of their day in order to survive. Through exceptional acts of loyalty, they, along with their kinsman Boaz, re-establish the bonds of family and community, while preserving the line of Israel’s great king David.
Yet for many, the story of Ruth is deeply dissatisfying. Scholars increasingly recognize how Ruth’s textual “gaps” and ambiguities render conventional interpretations of the book’s meaning and purpose uncertain. Feminist and queer interpreters question the appropriation of a women’s story to uphold patriarchal institutions and heteronormative values. Such avenues of inquiry lend themselves to questions of narrative desire,that is, the study of how stories frame our desires and how our own complex longings affect the way we read. Here, Stephanie Day Powell illuminates the myriad forms of persuasion, inducement, discontent, and heartbreak experienced by readers of Ruth. Writing from a lesbian perspective, Powell draws upon biblical scholarship, contemporary film and literature, narrative studies, feminist and queer theories, trauma studies and psychoanalytic theory to trace the workings of desire that produced the book of Ruth and shaped its history of reception. Wrestling with the arguments for and against reading Ruth as a love story between women, Powell gleans new insights into the ancient world in which Ruth was written. A fresh perspective on the intersections between identity and interpretation, Do Not Press Me to Leave You offers an innovative look into the intersubjective relationship between the Bible and its readers.
Dr. Powell is a currently a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Academy of Religion and the Modern Language Association. Previously she served as a steering committee member for the Scriptural/Contextual Ethics Consultation of the American Academy of Religion and as advisory board member for the Jewish-Christian Studies Program at Gratz College in Melrose Park, PA.
Dr. Powell won the Rabbi Dr. Sheldon J. Weltman Prize for Excellence in Biblical Studies (2015) for her dissertation, “Do Not Press Me to Leave You: Narrative Desire and the Book of Ruth,” completed at Drew University.