Spring 2019 Schedule

Dear Workshop Participants,

I’m delighted to share with you our workshop’s schedule for next quarter. Please fill out your calendars and stay tuned for future updates and details.

Monday, April 8, at 5:00 p.m.
Beatrice Rehl (Religious Studies Publisher, Cambridge University Press.)

How to Turn Dissertations into Books (3rd session in series).

Tuesday, April 16, at 5:00 p.m.

Mark Lester, (Yale University, PhD candidate).

Self-Reference, Circulation, and Preservation in Esarhaddon’s Succession Treaty.
Tuesday, May 7, at 5:00 p.m.
Simeon Chavel and Jeffrey Stackert.
How to Turn Dissertations into Books—from the perspective of the authors (4th session in series).
Tuesday, May 14, at 5:00 p.m.
Cathleen Chopra -McGowan (UChicago, PhD candidate)
May 21 at 5:00 p.m.
Doren Snoek (UChicago, PhD student).
Wishing you a productive and inspiring quarter.
Please contact me at aslancmiz@uchicago.edu with any questions.

Jim Eisenbraun on Turning Dissertations into Books

Dear all,

I’m happy to announce that Jim Eisenbraun, co-founder of and publisher at Eisenbrauns, has accepted our invitation to come speak to us about turning dissertations into books (Thursday, March 14, at 12:30 p.m., Swift 208). This will be the second session dedicated to this theme, and given Eisenbrauns’ special affinity to the kind of scholarship we do, it promises to be a particularly exciting talk.
Mr. Eisenbraun is generously encouraging workshop participants (be them students or faculty) to think in advance about specific questions/topics they would like him to address. We ask that you please send me your questions/suggested topics this Friday at the latest. 
Finally,In the hope of increasing the level of the conversation you are all encouraged to send me in advance a line or two with your nameyear in programtopic of dissertation and/or research interests
We hope to see you all there.


Dr. Shlomit Bechar on “The Use and Abuse of Orthostats at Hazor”

Dear all,
I have the pleasure to invite you to our next event, featuring Dr. Shlomit Bechar (Tuesday, February 12, 5:00 p.m. in Swift 201). Dr. Bechar recently received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is currently co-director of excavations at the Tel-Hazor archeological site. Her talk, entitled The Use and Abuse of Orthostats at Hazor “will investigate the use of basalt orthostats (worked basalt slabs) in Syro-Anatolia throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages focusing on the changes in consumption of these at Hazor. These were used to reflect the wealth and power of the rulers of the cities in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. However, while this practice continued in the Iron Age in Syro-Anatolia, at Hazor it was entirely changed. I will argue that at Hazor they are used to glorify the destruction of the Canaanite city and to humiliate the previous royals of Hazor. I will also show how this is another practice used by the Iron Age inhabitants of the city to exhibit their victory over the Canaanite rulers of Late Bronze Age Hazor.”
We hope to see you all there for what promises to be a fascinating encounter.
(Again, some delicious treats will be served).

Maddy Richey on Goliath and other Decapitations.

It is my pleasure to invite you to our next event, to take place next Tuesday, February 5 at 5:00 p.m., in Swift 201. Our very own Maddy Richey will be offering a talk entitled Goliah among the Giants: Monster Decapitation and Capital Display. Here is Maddy’s fascinating abstract:

“A single verse near the conclusion of 1 Samuel 17 mentions that after defeating Goliath, David took the giant’s severed head to Jerusalem (1 Sam 17:54). Literarily imagined transport and display of Goliath’s head encodes royal supremacy over monstrous bodies and casts the king as uniquely dominant over enemies at the physical extreme. This function of communicating royal and national power has parallels in the ancient Middle East and the ancient Mediterranean world. For example, various Gilgamesh describe the decapitation of Humbaba and the display of that giant’s severed head; this is paralleled by apotropaic use of Humbaba’s head as known from the Mesopotamian archaeological record. Similarly, Greek mythographers’ descriptions of Perseus’s defeat of Medusa are replicated in iconography by Gorgoneion architectural elements. In discussing the significance of displayed monstrous heads in literary and historical circumstances, I will engage Lacanian work on the semiotics of severed heads, theorizations of the monstrous, and recent scholarship on decapitation in the ancient Near East.”

We hope to see you all there.
Delicious food and some refreshments will be available.

Prof. Jennifer Andruska’s— “Wise and Foolish Love in the Song of Songs.”

It is my pleasure to invite you to our next event, which will take place this Tuesday (Jan 12), at 5:00 p.m., in Swift 106. We will have the pleasure of listening to Prof. Jennifer Andruska’s talk “Wise and Foolish Love in the Song of Songs.” Prof. Andruska has recently her PhD in Hebrew Bible at Cambridge, and will be talking about how the Song of Songs incorporates elements of wisdom literature (see the full abstract below).
We hope to see you all in what promises to be a fascinating talk!
Refreshments will be served.
“Wise and Foolish Love in the Song of Songs.”—Abstract.
For some time scholars have been debating whether the Song of Songs has connections to the wisdom genre and how this changes our understanding of it.  Those who have suggested such connections have been criticized for not demonstrating that they are extensive enough to be meaningful and for being vague as to what precisely the book’s wisdom message might be.  This presentation will demonstrate that the influence of the wisdom genre on the Song is pervasive, running throughout the book, and offer an entirely new understanding of the book’s wisdom message.  Connections between the Song of Songs and wisdom are often seen in the ‘do not awaken’ refrains, the climactic statement in 8:6-7 and numerous parallels with the biblical wisdom books, particularly Proverbs. Yet, the wisdom books’ use of language or motifs from the Song does not make the Song itself wisdom.  I will not argue that the Song’s wisdom features are the result of specific parallels with the biblical wisdom books, but rather, that they derive from typical forms and conventions found in the antecedent ancient Near Eastern ‘didactic’ or advice literature genre, what we call ‘wisdom,’ which predates the biblical wisdom books by at least a thousand years.  The Song of Songs incorporates forms and conventions used in the ancient Near Eastern advice literature genre throughout the book, so that the it shares points of contact with both the love song and advice literature genres of the ancient Near East.  The purpose of this exploration into the Song’s use of these features is not to label the Song as ‘wisdom’ proper, or have it categorized as such, but rather, to understand what the presence of these conventions and features means for the interpretation of the Song itself. The Song of Songs is clearly a love song, yet it also does something quite different than other ancient Near Eastern love song texts, by combining the love song genre with elements of the ancient Near Eastern advice literature genre to produce a wisdom literature about romantic love.  These connections to wisdom in the Song are extensive enough to change the way that we understand the book. The Song is not just a celebration of love or entertainment, but is providing wisdom concerning romantic love.

Prof. Jessie DeGrado—Model Class and Job Talk Dry-runs.

Dear friends,

We’re very excited to start the first week of our Winter schedule with two sessions hosted by our very own Professor Jessie DeGrado, who is coming back to Chicago for some practice for the job market. To that end, Professor DeGrado will be presenting a dry run of both a model class and a job talk (Wednesday 1/9 at 1:00 p.m. for the class, and Thursday 1/10 at 6:00 p.m. for the job talk; rooms TBD).
This is a unique opportunity for all of us to gain exposure and insight into a crucial moment of the employment process.
Jessie DeGrado studies the intersection of gender, empire, and religious innovation in the ancient Middle East. Their current work explores processes of cultural interaction between the Assyrian heartland and peripheral states of the Levant in the first millennium BCE. Recent publications include a co-authored study on the wanderings of the Mesopotamian baby-killing demon Lamashtu and an analysis of the representation of foreigners in Assyrian texts and iconography (forthcoming). DeGrado received a PhD in Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East from the University of Chicago in August 2018 and currently teaches at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Matthew Susnow—House of the Deity: A Perspective from Bronze Age Canaan.

Dear colleagues,

It is my pleasure to invite to our next event, which will take place next Monday (Nov. 12) at 5:00 p.m., in Swift 201. Matthew Susnow will be presenting a talk entitled House of the Deity: A Perspective from Bronze Age Canaan. Matthew is visiting us all the way from Haifa University, where he has just submitted his doctoral dissertation on Canaanite public spaces. Our very own Emily Thomassen, will be providing a response.
Please join us for what promises to be an illuminating discussion about the religious landscape that preceded the Iron Age.
Light refreshments will be served.
Best wishes,
Aslan Cohen Mizrahi.
For accessibility concerns, please contact me at aslancmiz@uchicago.edu.

Ethan Schwartz—“Rethinking the Comparative Study of Biblical and Ancient Mediterranean Prophecy.”

Dear colleagues,

It is my pleasure to invite you our next event, which will take place on Monday, Nov. 5, in Swift 201. Ethan Schwartz, who is a PhD Candidate in Hebrew Bible at Harvard University, will be presenting his dissertation prospectus: Rethinking the Comparative Study of Biblical and Ancient Mediterranean Prophecy.

Here is the abstract of Ethan’s project:

The contextualization of biblical prophecy against the backdrop of ancient Mediterranean divination is one of the liveliest comparative enterprises in biblical studies today. Many aspects of the Latter Prophets in particular have been shown to have remarkable nonbiblical analogues. However, there is one such aspect that has largely eluded this comparison: the prophets’ critique of established authority on behalf of (what they claim to be) God’s true demands of Israel. This is a significant lacuna because this critique of authority is not just one aspect among many but rather a centrally thematized, orienting idea—so much so that scholars, theologians, and laypeople alike often reflexively use the word “prophetic” as a shorthand for principled opposition to illegitimate authority. Amidst so much continuity between biblical and ancient Mediterranean prophecy, what are we to make of this striking discontinuity? In this presentation, which is an overview of my in-progress dissertation, I argue that it actually stems from a larger incongruence between the two corpora: the biblical prophetic texts have been thoroughgoingly shaped into literature in a way that their nonbiblical counterparts have not been. The prophetic critique of authority must be understood as part of a multifaceted literary project. In light of this, I suggest a new avenue for comparative analysis that offers better prospects for understanding the Latter Prophets’ critique of authority within their ancient Mediterranean context.

We hope to see you all then.


Aslan Cohen Mizrahi.


For accessibility concerns, please contact me at aslancmiz@uchicago.edu.


The Job Market for Bible: Two Recent Successes

Monday, October 15, 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm, Swift 208

On October 15th, the Hebrew Bible Workshop, the Early Christian Studies Workshop, and the Craft of Teaching will be co-sponsoring an event that will offer a unique, field-specific perspective on the job market. The panel will bring together two DivSchool Professors with two former advisees who have recently been hired as Faculty in institutions of higher learning. On the Hebrew Bible side, Professor Simeon Chavel will be speaking with his former student, Prof. Jacqueline Vayntrub, who received a PhD in Northwest Semitic Philology from UChicago in 2015 and is now serving as Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School. As for Early Christianity, Professor Margaret M. Mitchell will be speaking with her former advisee, Prof. Allison Gray, who graduated from her PhD in New Testament and Early Christian Literature in 2016, and is now Assistant Professor of Theology at St. Mary’s University. Together, the panelists represent two field-specific examples of an advisor/advisee relationship that contributed to the latter’s success in the job market. The aim of this session is for the panelists to discuss the main challenges and lessons from their experiences together. To that end, each participant will answer common questions from her own perspective, expecting that sometimes their perspectives on the same issues may not match.