“Hackney Library’s Academic Achievement Series” Features Barton Dr. Jane Webster on March 21

WILSON, N.C. — In conjunction with the “Hackney Library Celebrates Academic Achievement Series” at Barton College, Hackney Library will host a book signing and reading on Thursday, March 21, for “Lady Parts: Biblical Women and The Vagina Monologues” (Wipf & Stock 2012), a collection of narratives co-edited by Dr. Jane S. Webster, professor of religion at Barton College, and Dr. Kathryn D. Blanchard, associate professor of religious studies at Alma College in Michigan. The book signing will be held from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. At 6 p.m., Dr. Webster will discuss the project and share a reading from the book. She will then introduce several Barton students and alumnae, including Crystal Davis and Lizy Velazquez, who will perform their monologues written for this collection.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase for $18 at the event (cash and checks made payable to Jane Webster will be accepted). The book signing is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

The book originated in a classroom collaboration. In spring 2011, Dr. Webster and Dr. Blanchard worked together on a course titled “Women in the Biblical Tradition.”  To set the stage, they both took their students to see  “The Vagina Monologues,” a celebrated and controversial play by Eve Ensler that documents the struggles that modern women face in grappling with their own bodies and lives. Dr. Webster and Dr. Blanchard put a twist on this concept and asked their students to provide imaginative answers to the question, “How might women in the Bible tell their stories if they were prompted to do so by ‘The Vagina Monologues?’” The resulting monologues were so powerful and interesting that the professors decided to get them published, filling out the collection with additional contributions from scholars, pastors, and counselors. Dr. Webster and Dr. Blanchard contributed a monologue each, co-wrote the introduction, and provided “Questions for Further Discussion” to prompt reflection in the classroom, book clubs, and church groups.

The monologues are at times faithful or irreverent, tragic or even funny. Some are quite shocking; some are profoundly sad. All of them speak some truth about and for women. Dr. Webster explains, “Many of the contributors found safety in telling their own stories through the voice of the biblical woman. Many also struggle with the effect of silencing, the empowering act of speaking the truth, and the role of religion in gender-based violence.”

“Lady Parts” has received acclaim within the academic community and beyond. Kristi Upson-Saia, associate professor of religious studies at Occidental College, says, “In this exciting collection of monologues, the authors expand the voices of biblical women and, in so doing, find a way to speak things that are regularly deemed unspeakable in Judeo-Christian tradition:  they graphically describe their experiences of sexuality, embodiment, and trauma; they remember and resist religion’s collusion with women’s submission, suffering, and silencing; and they express their religiosity comingled with anger, longing, and fraught relationships. This is certainly a book that would make Eve Ensler proud.”

“Roaring off the page and whispering through the cracks, authentic struggles with God are laid bare in these midrashic monologues,” shares Darryl W. Stephens, assistant general secretary for advocacy and sexual ethics for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women in the United Methodist Church. “Through the fourfold feminist hermeneutic of suspicion, resistance, remembrance, and reconstruction, the Word is made flesh again and again by women with the courage to bring real-world concerns to their readings of Scripture. May their witness contribute to an end to violence against women and girls!”

Dr. Webster reports that both the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature will feature the project prominently in a special session at their annual congress in Baltimore in November. “We are honored that the academy has received this work so enthusiastically,” she says.