New Publication: Monsters and Monstrosity in Jewish History: From the Middle Ages to Modernity, edited by Iris Idelson-Shein and Christian Wiese

This is the first study of monstrosity in Jewish history from the Middle Ages to modernity. Drawing on Jewish history, literary studies, folklore, art history and the history of science, it examines both the historical depiction of Jews as monsters and the creative use of monstrous beings in Jewish culture.

Jews have occupied a liminal position within European society and culture, being deeply immersed yet outsiders to it. For this reason, they were perceived in terms of otherness and were often represented as monstrous beings. However, at the same time, European Jews invoked, with tantalizing ubiquity, images of magical, terrifying and hybrid beings in their texts, art and folktales. These images were used by Jewish authors and artists to push back against their own identification as monstrous or diabolical and to tackle concerns about religious persecution, assimilation and acculturation, gender and sexuality, science and technology and the rise of antisemitism.

Bringing together an impressive cast of contributors from around the world, this fascinating volume is an invaluable resource for academics, postgraduates and advanced undergraduates interested in Jewish studies, as well as the history of monsters.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Writing a Jewish History of Horror, or What Happens When Monsters Stare Back, Iris Idelson-Shein (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany)

Part I: The Monster Without: Monsters in Jewish-Christian Inter-Cultural Discourse
1. Monsters, Demons and Jews in the Painting of Hieronymus Bosch, Debra Higgs Strickland (University of Glasgow, UK)
2. Bestial Bodies on the Jewish Margins: Race, Ethnicity and Otherness in Medieval Manuscripts Illuminated for Jews, Marc Michael Epstein (Vassar College, USA)
3. enge unpathas uncuð gelad: The Long Walk to Freedom, Asa Simon Mittman (California State University, Chico, USA) and Miriamne Ara Krummel (University of Dayton, USA)
4. Demonic Entanglements: Contextualisations of Matted Hair in Medieval and Early Modern Western and Eastern Ashkenaz, François Guesnet (University College London, UK)
5. A Jewish Frankenstein: Making Monsters in Modernist German Grotesques, Joela Jacobs (University of Arizona, USA)
6. “Der Volf” or the Jew as Out(side of the)law, Jay Geller (Vanderbilt University, USA)
7. Stranger in the House: Gender, Sex and Jewishness in Weimar Cinema’s Monsters, Cathy Gelbin (University of Manchester, UK)
8. Monsters in the Testimonies of Holocaust Survivors, Kobi Kabalek (University of Haifa, Israel)

Part II: The Monster Within: Monsters in Jewish Intra-Communal Discourse
9. Unearthing the ‘Children of Cain’: Between Human, Animal, and Demon in Medieval Jewish Culture, David I. Shyovitz (Northwestern University, USA)
10. Sexuality and Communal Space in Stories about the Marriage of Men and She-Demons, David Rotman (Achva Academic College, Israel)
11. The Raging Rabbi: Aggression and Agency in an Early Modern Yiddish Werewolf Tale, Astrid Lembke (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)
12. Out of the Mouths of Babes and Sucklings, David B. Ruderman (University of Pennsylvania, USA)
13. Sexorcism: On the Sexual Dimensions of Jewish Exorcism Techniques, J. H. Chajes (University of Haifa, Israel)
14. Rabbinic Monsters: The World of Wonder and Rabbinic Writings at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century, Maoz Kahana (Tel Aviv University, Israel)
15. End of the Demons?: Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Reflections on the Eclipse of Demons and Monsters by Human Evil in the 20th Century, Christian Wiese (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany)


Order the book here.

Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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