RELJ 3430

Course Name: 
Women in Judaism
Units: 
Primary

This course explores the role of women in Judaism as understood by classical Jewish sources and as reconceived by key feminist thinkers in the modern era. Starting with the classical sources, this course familiarizes students with talmudic sources that touch on various aspects of women's lives. We begin with the observation that classical Jewish sources imagine sexuality as a potent creative force, and then explore a number of derivative questions affecting the status and lives of women. How did this positive embrace of sexuality affect the place accorded women in Jewish society? Was female sexuality imagined in different terms than male sexuality? Were women seen to interfere with men's religious lives or enhance it? Was there a domain of women's religious experiences that was distinct from men's? We will analyze both legal and narrative texts for answers to our questions. Other topics treated include: control and protection of women's sexuality, the economics of women's labor, rituals of the body and the modes of expression characteristic of classical Jewish sources. In the last section of the course we will review contemporary attempts by key feminist Jewish thinkers (Plaskow, Adler and Ross) to rethink women’s roles in the religion.

Instructor: 
Elizabeth Alexander