September 2014‎ > ‎

09. Congratulations, Dianne Bergsma

Revisiting Bathsheba and David:
A Recuperative reading with Julia Kristeva


Dianne’s thesis is not the typical philosophical study comparing, contrasting, evaluating solutions to certain theoretic problems. Rather, in the conviction that philosophy is a spiritual exercise, a way of life, Dianne set out to explore the possible help the conceptual lenses of feminist philosopher-psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva could offer in revisiting the Biblical story of Bathsheba and David. Her goal was to discover if, employing Kristevan ideas, new understandings of an old biblical story would shed some light and insight on our efforts in the 21st century to be women and men of integrity.

Two Kristevan ideas in particular were of great benefit in her re-reading of the story of Bathsheba and David. First, Kristeva’s recognition that the semiotic is as fundamental to language as the symbolic. That is, words do not only denote, identify, and distinguish conceptually, but resonate with affect, drives, and feeling, creating an ambience, a mood. Words are suggestive, allusive, evocative, reproving and censuring, creating an atmosphere often as much by what is not said as by what is said.

Second, Kristeva’s emphasis on the importance, in reading, of bearing ethical witness to the unethical, and the imperative need for a her-ethics, or herethics, which goes beyond and through law to Love. The overarching need for an ethics of love is crucial because, even today, just as in the time of Bathsheba, an ethics based on law is often detrimental to women. Just as women in the biblical narrative were silenced, raped, dishonored, their subjectivity disregarded, their voices silenced, so even today sexual violation as a weapon of war continues unabated. Dianne’s study again reminds us in no uncertain terms that we simply cannot sit silent while women are systematically subjected to sexual abuse.

I served as Dianne’s promoter and Dr. Loes Derksen of the VU University Amsterdam was the co-promoter. The panel of examiners consisted of Prof. dr. Wouter Goris and Dr. Annemie Halsema from the VU, Prof. dr. Mieke Bal and Dr. Christa Stevens from the University of Amsterdam, and Prof. dr. Anne Marie Korte from the University of Utrecht. Congratulations, Dr. Bergsma! It was a pleasure to work with you.


Jim Olthuis
Professor Emeritus
Philosophical Theology
1968-2004