Reading Discussion Questions Weaving the Visions #1
Use these questions to guide your reading.
Read with special care the preface and introduction to the book, the introduction to the section “Our Heritage Is Our Power" and the articles listed with questions. Use these questions to read critically and prepare for discussion. Then, as your time permits, read or skim the additional articles, looking for ways they tie in with course themes or present research possibilities you would like to explore.
1. Preface and introduction to book: In the Preface, how has the long-term friendship and collaboration of the editors changed over time?
** In the Introduction, what are the primary themes the editors identify that were present in their earlier collection and are still central to feminist study of religion? (1)
** How are some of the themes broadened and redefined in this new collection? (2-4)
** (Methodology) – What forms of expression beyond academic discourse are now included in feminist study of religion? How does this opening up forms of expression supply a corrective to pure academic writing? (4-6)
** What are some of the risks of choosing non-academic forms of writing? (6)
** What problems do the editors now see, in hindsight, with the ‘revolutionary/reformist’ dichotomy they used in their first book? What are other differences and divisions they now recognize? (7)
** How have academic institutions contributed to divisions among feminist scholars of religion? Why do you think this has happened? (8)
** How should feminist scholars treat each other? (Or perhaps, ALL scholars treat each other.) (8)
** How are writers in this volume expanding the understanding of heritage, the nature of the divine, and issues of selfhood? (9-10)
** How can feminists achieve solidarity across difference? (12)
2. Intro to “Our Heritage Is Our Power"
** What are the range of heritages and histories included in this section? What methods are employed? (17)
** What can Native and non-Native women alike gain from recovering histories of Native American women? (18)
** What are some assumptions in Fiorenza’s feminist critical approach to Christian history and Biblical texts? How does Plaskow apply this same approach to the history of Jewish women? (18-19)
** What archeological evidence supports Gimbutas’s view that, previous to recorded history, men and women lived as equals? (20)
3. “Grandmother of the Sun"
** Paula Gunn Allen claims that the oldest layer of myth in some Native American traditions has a female creator/primary deity. How do you respond to the images and myths she includes in this article? Are any images surprising to you – and why? (23+)
** What are the implications for human society and human-nonhuman relations of this underlying female divinity? (25+)
4. “In Search of Women’s Heritage"
** Following from Mark (the earliest-written Gospel, upon which others were based), how was the story of the unnamed woman who anointed Jesus changed and made less strong in later Gospels? (29)
** Why does Fiorenza believe the original story reveals a more important role for this earlier follower of Jesus – as well as other women followers of Jesus - than ended up in the Biblical text?
** Why is it important to reclaim women’s lost history of Biblical times? (30+)
** Given the historical loss of women’s presence in the Biblical texts, where can the lost history be found? What is the fundamental assumption of historical biblical criticism? (30-31)
** Why does Fiorenza think restoring women’s history to the Christian community should be central, not marginal, in Biblical scholarship? How does this work challenge the myth of objectivity? (32)
** How does Fiorenza respond to feminist critics who want to reject the Biblical heritage entirely? What do these feminist critics miss? (33)
** What can be gained by women reclaiming their history? (34-35)
** How does this inclusion of women in Christian history potentially transform the discipline of biblical historical scholarship? (36) In the end, what is the purpose of feminist Biblical scholarship and community it affects? (37)
5. “Jewish Memory from a Feminist Perspective"
** How does the language Plaskow cites from Torah (scripture) turn women into objects rather than full participants in the covenant? (39)
** Why does Plaskow believe women need to reclaim their past, rather than rejecting the past as patriarchal, and just moving forward into the future? (40-41)
** What are the special problems that Jewish feminists face in reconstructing history? What view of Torah do feminists need to adopt? (41-43)
** What are the tensions and the commonalities between feminist and traditional approaches to Jewish history? (44-45)
** What is ‘midrash’ and how is it a particularly good way for feminists to reclaim women’s history and ensure its survival? (46-47)
** Why is creating ritual important for women in Judaism? (47-48)
6. Read at least the first page of “My Sister, My Spouse." (51) What were some advantages for women in entering into monastic life in the medieval period?