Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title
Unveiling Eve is the first feminist inquiry into the Hebrew poetry and prose forms cultivated in Muslim and Christian Spain, Italy, and Provence in the eleventh through fourteenth centuries. In the Jewish Middle Ages, writing was an exclusively male competence, and textual institutions such as the study of scripture, mysticism, philosophy, and liturgy were men's sanctuaries from which women were banished. These domains of male expertise—alongside belles lettres, on which Rosen's book focuses—served as virtual laboratories for experimenting with concepts of femininity and masculinity, hetero- and homosexuality, feminization and virilization, transvestism and transsexuality. Reviewing texts as varied as love lyric, love stories, marriage debates, rhetorical contests, and liturgical and moralistic pieces, Tova Rosen considers the positions and positioning of female figures and female voices within Jewish male discourse.
The idolization and demonization of women present in these texts is read here against the background of scripture and rabbinic literature as well as the traditions of chivalry and misogyny in the hosting Islamic and Christian cultures. Unveiling Eve unravels the literary evidence of a patriarchal tradition in which women are routinely rendered nonentities, often positioned as abstractions without bodies or reified as bodies without subjectivities. Without rigidly following any one school of feminist thinking, Rosen creatively employs a variety of methodologies to describe and assess the texts' presentation of male sexual politics and delineate how women and concepts of gender were manipulated, fictionalized, fantasized, and poeticized. Inaugurating a new era of critical thinking in Hebrew literature, Unveiling Eve penetrates a field of medieval literary scholarship that has, until now, proven impervious to feminist criticism.
1 No-Woman's-Land: Medieval Hebrew Literature and Feminist Criticism
2 Gazing at the Gazelle: Woman in Male Love Lyric
3 Veils and Wiles: Poetry as Woman
4 Poor Soul, Pure Soul: The Soul as Woman
5 Domesticating the Enemy: Misogamy in a Jewish Marriage Debate
6 Among Men: Homotextuality in the Maqama
7 Clothes Reading: Cross-Dressing in the Maqama
8 Circumcised Cinderella: Jewish Gender Trouble
"Rosen wears her vast learning lightly and well. She brings to bear on the texts an enormous erudition in the various genres of Hebrew writing from medieval Spain which served as intertextual web for the poetry as well as Arabic literature, Latin and medieval European Romance literatures, and even the early European novel."—Daniel Boyarin, University of California, Berkeley
Rosen's discourse is dense but enlightening; in a clear and nuanced fashion she demonstrates the benefits to be gained through gender premises in literary pursuits. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice