‘Painting’ Ruth

the mise en abyme of loss


  • Shelley Campbell University of Gloucestershire




Book of Ruth, Walter Benjamin, Laurie Anderson, Mieke Bal, bereavement


In accordance with the idea of mise en abyme, Mieke Bal and Harold Fisch identify aspects in the Book of Ruth that allude to earlier episodes in the Old Testament. As well as building the House of Israel and Ruth's role in it, there are textual references to the laws of family (Levirate Law) and land (Redemption). While Fisch sees moral progression through the allusions to Ruth's foremothers, Walter Benjamin does not countenance the notion of progression in the domain of history. Instead, Benjamin extracts the details of history from the detritus of the past to explain the present and forecast the future. With Fisch and Bal, I am learning to live with loss by removing the linearity of time that mise en abyme affords. From Benjamin, I am collecting fragments of family stories by ploughing into the past in order to understand the present.


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