4 Yale J.L. & Feminism 81 (1991-1992)
Abortion of Narrative: A Reading of the Judgement of Solomon

handle is hein.journals/yjfem4 and id is 87 raw text is: Abortion of Narrative:

A Reading of the Judgment of Solomon
Marie Ashet
Among the earliest judicial speech-acts recorded in Western law is the
first judgment of Solomon, of which the well-known account is given in The
First Book of Kings.1 I suggest that examination of Solomon's judgment may
be instructive in illuminating in a highly general way the processes that operate
in contemporary judicial determinations relating to women as mothers and as
non-mothers-i.e., determinations covering the full range of issues often
designated as relating to reproduction-which include the female act of
gestation; the process of giving birth; the totality of physical intimacies
implicated in the care extended to dependent infants and children; the issue of
abortion; and the riddles raised by reproductive technology.
The Biblical narrative of Solomon's judgment has long been accepted as
a paradigmatic account of justice and of wisdom.2 It has constituted a
most major contribution to the constructions of motherhood and of female
nature that underlie and are embedded in the institutions of Western culture.
My purpose in reading Solomon's judicial speech-act is to look anew at
an adjudication accomplished by word and by sword directed toward and
against female-and specifically maternal-bodies. I propose my reading and
interpretations as relevant for contemporary judicial determinations relating
to issues of human sexuality, determinations that often impede or threaten to
sever communitarian bonds-including bonds among women.
In undertaking this task, I adopt as my definition of reading one
proposed by Roland Barthes-that reading consists of . . . rewriting the text
of the work within the text of our lives.' The method that I have adopted is
a careful reading of the text; a situation of the text (a placing of it in con-text);
t Posten Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law. Visiting professor on the
clinical faculty at Boston College Law School, 1991-92. This piece was presented as part of a panel
presentation on Reproductive Issues at the Conference, Feminism in the 90s: Bridging the Gap Between
Theory and Practice. This article is published in memory of Mary Joe Frug, who was one of its first
readers.
1. 1 have chosen to consider the King James version, rather than recent translations of the Bible, in
the belief that the former, perhaps largely because of its intertextual connections with other literature,
continues to be the account most familiar to contemporary readers.
2. An uncritical acceptance of the wisdom of Solomon is apparent in the legal-professional as well
as in the more general culture. Law professors often introduce the study of evidence with examination of
the judgment of Solomon. See ERIC D. GREEN & CHARLES R. NESSON, PROBLEMS, CASES AND
MATERIALS ON EVIDENCE 4 (1983); JOHN KAPLAN & JON R. WALTZ, CASES AND MATERIALS ON
EVIDENCE 64 (6th ed. 1987).
3. Roland Barthes, Day by Day with Roland Barthes, in ON SIGNS 101 (Marshall Blonsky ed., 1985).
Copyright © 1991 by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

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