Prospectus: Joseph’s Dysfunctional Family

A rare photograph of Joseph's touching reunion with his father.

I’m speaking for myself, but having grown up with the story of Joseph, it’s been pretty easy to take the whole ordeal for granted.  Not to say that I’ve been unfamiliar with the story, but there’s certainly a contrast between the dramatic Biblical portrayal of the events and Donny Osmond’s Technicolor dreamscape.  What I’d like to do is capture this difference, and I feel like the best way to humanize the story would be to analyze the psychological weight of the events in the Joseph cycle.

Despite being a Sunday School favorite, the tale is rife with emotional trauma.  Parental favoritism, sibling rivalry (perhaps “forced estrangement” is a more worthy term), wrongful imprisonment, and loss of a child are just a few of the issues that plague Joseph and his family.  By applying the effects of these situations to the characters in the Joseph story, maybe we can more effectively humanize them and gain a better appreciation for their behaviors. Ultimately, my goal isn’t to psychologically typify Joseph and his family, but to quantify/qualify their individual struggles insofar as the scripture’s depth allows.

I’m aware that not every apparently traumatic event in the story may be paired with a reaction.  Depending on how frequently I run into such a situation, I’m prepared to explore the possible significance (or, rather, insignificance) of the missing details.  I also want to stress that I intend to be very careful about falsely attributing significance to passages of the story.  Ideally, the essay will be a neutral analysis.

In terms of resources, and this may go without saying, I’ll be leaning pretty heavily on Genesis 37-50.  I’ve managed to uncover a few articles that lie on the intersection between psychology and the Joseph story.  I intend to include some broad psychological studies to either affirm or refute the characters’ actions and reactions, as well as explore the significance of their decisions.  When all is said and done, I’d like to have significantly explored the emotional depth of the story, and perhaps have some substantial evidence that the story is more worthy of an HBO miniseries than an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.


About Mitch Morton

Mitch is a Computer Science student at the University of Kentucky. His hobbies include substituting sleep with programming and testing the limits of human caffeine consumption, both of which solidify his choice of profession.
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2 Responses to Prospectus: Joseph’s Dysfunctional Family

  1. lmwa223 says:

    I like this topic! I think it’s good you are aware of which boundaries to cross and which ones not to. This will bring a fresh viewpoint to your paper that is not so much concerned with discerning or diagnosing what is right and wrong, but simply interested in a neutral analysis of Joseph and his family. I’m on the same page as you with the whole ‘Sunday School’ perspective that I’ve grown up with, so I’m looking forward to seeing where your research takes you. Maybe you could incorporate the possible points of view from each family member rather than just one to avoid any bias slipping into your paper, since you are trying to remain neutral. Good luck with all your paper endeavors!

  2. Sean Gillespie says:

    Thsi is a great topic for a paper and there is alot that can be done with it. The psychology of relationships is very complex when dealing with a family because no matter how strong or weak one persons relationship with another may be, it still has a profound influence on how the family functions. In my opinion, it would be interesting to see how Joseph’s family functions in comparison to families today, whether it be the average american household or a tv show that seeks to emulate one particular family situation.

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