A multifaceted portrait of Ruth as revealed through her defining relationships and postbiblical treatments
The biblical story of Ruth celebrates the power to begin life anew, to gather what has been scattered, to glean what one needs. In this original approach to understanding an ancient love story, Jennifer L. Koosed crafts a multifaceted portrait of the Old Testament character of Ruth and of the demanding agricultural world in which her story unfolds. Highlighting the most complex aspects of the book—the relationships Ruth has with her mother-in-law, Naomi; sister-in-law, Orpah; future husband, Boaz; and infant son, Obed—Koosed explores the use of pairings to define Ruth's aspirational fortitude. Koosed also touches on the narrative's questions of sexuality, kinship, and law as well as the metaphoric activities of harvest that serve to advance the plot and illuminate the social and geographic context of Ruth's tale. From the private world of women to the public world of men, Koosed guides readers through the book of Ruth's revealing glimpses into the sociology of the ancient Hebrew world. The study concludes with a discussion of the postbiblical fascination with Ruth and her later representations in a variety of literary and visual media.
Koosed's approach is eclectic, employing a host of methodologies from philology and theology to literature, folklore, and feminism. Thoughtful of the interests of both scholarly and lay audiences, Koosed presents inviting and compelling new insights into one of the Old Testament's most enigmatic characters.
Jennifer L. Koosed is an associate professor of religious studies at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, and the author of (Per)mutations of Qohelet: Reading the Body in the Book.
"Jennifer Koosed's Gleaning Ruth is a primer in creative exegetical gleaning, crossing with intellectual and aesthetic dexterity geographical, temporal, and disciplinary borders. From the fields of ancient Moab and Bethlehem to the fields of northeastern Ohio and France, from the biblical narrative landscape to contemporary film, fiction, stage, and memoir, Koosed gathers ideas and images to remind us how food production and procurement factor into our constructions of home, kinship, gender relationships, cross-cultural connections, and indeed survival itself. Truly a 'green' reading of the book of Ruth: gritty, grainy, and urgent."—Danna Nolan Fewell, Drew University
"It is startling how much one learns in reading this book—about the anthropology of kinship, food and foodways, ancient agricultural practices, the physiology of lactation, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and even, in the autobiographical sections, about the growing season in northeastern Ohio. Most of all one learns about the book of Ruth; because, as Koosed shows, all of these topics are relevant to interpreting the biblical story. The result is a fabulously rich reading that reclaims Ruth from the platitudes of romance and easy moral lessons. The beauty of the biblical book remains, but clearly this is a tough-minded beauty."—Tod Linafelt, Georgetown University