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 book of Esther and 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, published in 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).
Her other publications include:
“Esther’s Testimony in the Age of #MeToo.” 2020. In Engaging the Bible: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Mark Roncace, Wingate, NC: Point of View Publishing.
“Jesus and Sinners in Mark.” 2020. In Engaging the Bible: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Mark Roncace, Wingate, NC: Point of View Publishing.
“Delight, Desire and Drag: The Saga of the Gibeonites and the Queering of Covenant Theology.” 2019. The Bible and Critical Theory 15.1: 89-113.
“Rizpah: A Midrash on Grief” (with Amy Beth Jones). 2018. In Bridge Work: Conversations between the Bible and Practical Theology, edited by Denise Dombkowski Hopkins and Michael Koppel, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: 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.
At Manhattan College Dr. Powell currently serves as an advisory board member and chaplain in the LaSallian Women and Gender Resource Center. She has also served as a faculty advisor for Take Back the Night.
Dr. Powell is also 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.
Praise for Narrative Desire and the Book of Ruth:
"Powell articulates a personal and pastoral journey alongside significant academic research. The authentic gift of self, which Powell has courageously woven through her research, is an important contribution of this monograph." Jennifer H. Matheny, Review of Biblical Literature
"The reader unfamiliar with lesbian or queer readings might feel somewhat uncomfortable with this study, but maybe this feeling is comparable to that which many lesbian readers may have had for centuries with traditional interpretations of the book of Ruth that rejected any woman-identified special relationship between Ruth and Naomi, whereas every reader should recognize the strong bond between the two women. Powell has opened up new vistas on the book of Ruth, and scholars should consider the new readings offered in this study, if only so as not to put forward one’s own vision as the one and only, ignoring certain ambiguities in the text. For lesbian readers and scholars, this book hopefully offers the space in the Ruth narrative that it offers." - Marjo C. A. Korpel, Review of Biblical Literature
" , , , Powell’s use of intertextual and psychoanalytical readings allows for a fully fleshed out, nuanced reading of Ruth, her relationships and the deeper themes raised by the narrative, which enables Powell and her readers truly to embrace Ruth as our queer ancestress." - Deborah Kahn-Harris, Journal of Jewish Studies