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Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man
     

Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man

by Daniel Boyarin
 

In a book that will both enlighten and provoke, Daniel Boyarin offers an alternative to the prevailing Euroamerican warrior/patriarch model of masculinity and recovers the Jewish ideal of the gentle, receptive male. The Western notion of the aggressive, sexually dominant male and the passive female reaches back through Freud to Roman times, but as Boyarin makes

Overview

In a book that will both enlighten and provoke, Daniel Boyarin offers an alternative to the prevailing Euroamerican warrior/patriarch model of masculinity and recovers the Jewish ideal of the gentle, receptive male. The Western notion of the aggressive, sexually dominant male and the passive female reaches back through Freud to Roman times, but as Boyarin makes clear, such gender roles are not universal. Analyzing ancient and modern texts, he reveals early rabbis—studious, family-oriented—as exemplars of manhood and the prime objects of female desire in traditional Jewish society.

Challenging those who view the "feminized Jew" as a pathological product of the Diaspora or a figment of anti-Semitic imagination, Boyarin argues that the Diaspora produced valuable alternatives to the dominant cultures' overriding gender norms. He finds the origins of the rabbinic model of masculinity in the Talmud, and though unrelentingly critical of rabbinic society's oppressive aspects, he shows how it could provide greater happiness for women than the passive gentility required by bourgeois European standards.

Boyarin also analyzes the self-transformation of three iconic Viennese modern Jews: Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis; Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism; and Bertha Pappenheim (Anna O.), the first psychoanalytic patient and founder of Jewish feminism in Germany. Pappenheim is Boyarin's hero: it is she who provides him with a model for a militant feminist, anti-homophobic transformation of Orthodox Jewish society today.

Like his groundbreaking Carnal Israel, this book is talmudic scholarship in a whole new light, with a vitality that will command attention from readers in feminist studies, history of sexuality, Jewish culture, and the history of psychoanalysis.

Editorial Reviews

Nation
A work of immense importance, all at once astonishingly erudite, witty, playful and boldly speculative. As its reputation spreads, it's beginning to roil the waters far beyond Talmudic studies.
Library Journal
Boyarin (Talmudic culture, Berkeley) argues that modern Jewish culture has assimilated the macho male ethos of Western civilization. The result is the creation of the "muscle Jew," which divorces Jewish men from their emphasis on study, prayer, and gentleness. Ironically, in an effort to counter the anti-Semetic image of the so-called "Jewish wimp," Jewish men have abetted a process of internal colonization of Jewish culture by mainstream Christian culture and have adopted the anti-Semites' aggressive heterosexuality. Boyarin advocates a re-creation of the early Jewish male culture, based on the Talmud, which did not see inherent virtue in sports or aggressive behavior, and which he believes also lacked homophobia. In the process, he hopes traditional Jewish culture can also re-create itself without resorting to misogyny. A provocative work that will inspire controversy; strongly recommended for Judaica collections.Frederic Krome, Northern Kentucky Univ., Highland Heights

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520200333
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
06/13/1997
Series:
Contraversions: Critical Studies in Jewish Literature, Culture, and Society Series
Pages:
433
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 9.29(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author


Daniel Boyarin is Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture (California, 1993) and A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (California, 1994). Chapter 5 of Unheroic Conduct, "Freud's Baby, Fliess's Maybe; Or, Male Hysteria, Homophobia, and the Invention of the Jewish Man," received the Crompton-Noll Award of the Modern Language Association Gay and Lesbian Caucus.

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