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Forms of Affection

“don't be afraid" (Ruth 3:11)

Points of Reflection

Salvador Dalí's "Figure from the Back" (1925)

1. does Dalí idealize his sister, the model for this painting?

2. does he either overtly display or subtly suggest her sexuality?

3. why might the model be turned away from the painter?


1. why does Naomi hope that her two, widowed daughters-in-law will find new husbands (Ruth 1:8-9)?

2. Naomi twice suggests that God's favor has abandoned her (Ruth 1:13, 20-21). Does she, in turn, appear to abandon her trust in God?

3. when Ruth pledges to remain with Naomi till death, she also promises to adopt what principles and allegiances?

4. does this story at any point mention Ruth's appearance?

5. why is Ruth so surprised by Boaz's kindness to her? What about her identity (besides her gender) makes her a second-class citizen?

6. this is but one of many Biblical passages that mention gleaning (Ruth 2:3, etc.). What is gleaning, and is it practiced in the United States today?

7. what rights do women appear to have compared to their male counterparts within the patriarchal culture captured by this story?

8. does Boaz allow his actions towards Ruth to be defined by cultural norms?

9. why might Boaz continually refer to Ruth as "daughter" and allow her to call him "Lord," and why is constantly telling her what to do (instead of asking)? Is his posture towards her haughty and condescending?

10. at what point does the storyteller make it clear that this narrative took place in an era before that occupied by the narrator himself?

11. what motivates Boaz's purchase of the property owned by the deceased Elimelech?

12. the town elders who ratify the impending marriage mention Ruth's possible fecundity (Ruth 4:11-12); does Boaz himself?

13. how radical is it for the women of Bethlehem to tell Naomi that her daughter-in-law is "better to you than seven sons," given the cultural context (Ruth 4:15)?

14. what role does Naomi play in the life of her new grandson (Ruth 4:16-17)?

15. do the closing verses of Ruth give us another clue as to why this particular story might have been included by those who assembled The Bible?

16. does this story about the devotion of a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law seem incredible to a contemporary, American audience?

"Song of Songs"

1. is the woman in this romance as relationally proactive as her male lover?

2. what about the woman's appearance earns the stares of her female peers?

3. does either the man or the woman control the discourse of desire? What similes and metaphors do they each use to describe one another, and what do these comparisons suggest about the nature of their relationship?

4. do we fault the male lover for telling his beloved "there is no flaw in you" (4:7), for claiming that she is physically perfect?

5. why does the man compare his lover to a "garden locked up" and "a spring enclosed" (4.12), and what is his beloved's response to these metaphors?

6. assuming that only one male lover is present in this poem (some scholars suggest two), does the realization that the male lover has access to sixty queens, eighty concubines, and "virgins beyond number" (6:8), disrupt the romantic atmosphere of this poem?

7. is it inappropriate to string together the lover's disappearance in 5:6, his being discovered among the lilies (6:2-3), and his wandering about the vines and pomegranates in 5:11-12? Do these feel like "events" in a narrative, or loosely interrelated vignettes?

8. do the sexual double entendres of 5:2-5 seem inappropriate for a book of The Bible?

9. in 1 Peter 3:1-6 (located in the New Testament), Peter discourages Christian women from wearing jewelry, arguing that inner beauty of character should radiate outwards, making such artificial adornments unnecessary. What is this poem's attitude towards jewelry?

10. why might the poet identify such seemingly inconsequential details as the type of woods out of which the lovers' house is made (1:17), and the season in which these events occur (2:11-13)?

11. do these lovers extol one another's beauty, in party, by comparing their beloved's appearance to that of others of the same sex?

12. why might the female narrator repeatedly warn her friends, "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires" (2:7, 3:5, 8:4), and what does she mean by these words?

13. why does the woman briefly wish her lover were "like a brother, who was nursed at my mother's breasts" (8:1)?

14. why do these lovers, in the midst of their verbal lovemaking, keep on mentioning their parents? The woman wants to bring her lover to her mother's house, to the room where she was herself conceived (3:4), she at one points wishes he were related to her--that they shared a mother (8:1), and later says that she "roused" her lover under the very apple tree where her lover was conceived (8:5)

15. is there a clear, traceable chronological structure that binds together the events of this book?

"Figure from the Back" (1925)
Salvador Dalí

Dr. Paul Marchbanks