The aim of my thesis is to destabilise the persistently pessimistic framing of Eve as a highly negative symbol of femininity within Western culture by engaging with marginal, and even heretical interpretations that focus on more positive or sympathetic aspects of her character. My objective is to question the myth that orthodox, popular readings represent the 'true' meaning of Genesis 2–4, and to explore the possibility that previously ignored or muted rewritings of Eve, which emphasise her knowledge or her motherhood, are in fact equally 'valid' interpretations of the biblical text.
By staging analytical and dialogic encounters between the biblical Eve and re-writings of her story, particularly those that help to challenge the interpretative status quo, my thesis re-frames the first woman using three key themes from her story: sin, knowledge, and life. Employing a method of ideological reception criticism, I consider how and why the image of Eve as a dangerous temptress has gained considerably more cultural currency than the equally viable pictures of her as a subversive wise woman or as a mourning mother.
To conclude, I argue that Eve is neither an entirely negative nor entirely positive figure, but rather that her characterisation, both biblically and in reception, is ambiguous and multivalent. My thesis thus offers a re-evaluation of the meanings and the myths of Eve, deconstructing the dominance of her cultural incarnation as a predominantly flawed female, and reconstructing a more nuanced and balanced presentation of the first woman’s role in the Bible and in her afterlives.