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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 33, Issue 2, 2005

Alexander V. Kozin
Pages 273-294

Crossing over with the Angel

This essay is an analytical extension of Roland Barthes’ structural analysis of an excerpt from the Old Testament (Genesis 32: 22–32), known as “The Struggle with the Angel”. It thus continues the search for “the third meaning” of this enigmatic passage. In this essay, “The Struggle with the Angel” is undertaken in the phenomenological (xenological) register which situates it in the liminal sphere at the crossing of disclosure and concealment. Subsequent semiotic analyses of three visual renditions of Genesis 32: 22–32, Rembrandt’s “Jacob’s Struggle with the Angel”, Sir Jacob Epstein’s “Jacob and the Angel”, and Marc Chagall’s “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel”, show the “third meaning” of the passage to be predicated on the foundational relation between naming and facing, pointing to the understanding of “The Struggle” as the face-to-face relationship of love and responsibility grounded in ethics.

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