Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare

By Lisa Lampert | Go to book overview

1
Introduction: Made, Not Born

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

—Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex1

Fiunt, non nascuntur Christiani.

—Jerome, Epistles 107, 12

REPRESENTATIONS OF MEDIEVAL Christians and Christianity, although obviously the objects of intensive study, are rarely subject to the same types of scholarly scrutiny as representations of Jews and Judaism. “The Christian,” however, is as constructed a term, category, or identity as “the Jew.” Moreover, Christian perspectives dominate in the literatures and cultures of the Western European Middle Ages and also in many approaches to defining, delineating, and explaining medieval texts and contexts even in today’s postsecular age. In attempting to de-center Christianity from a normative position, this book simultaneously attempts to aid in releasing the study of medieval representations of Jews and Judaism from a restricted economy of particularism. In doing so, I hope to illuminate how these representations are not simply representations of the “Other” in early English texts but are implicated in the fundamental understandings of reading, interpretation, and identity that these texts engage.

My exploration is not the description of a unified pattern of meaning but rather a study of the production of Christian meaning or, more accurately, Christian meanings. Christians are, in Jerome’s words, “made not born.” The texts examined in this project acknowledge, either explicitly or implicitly, that Christian identity is neither static nor fixed. Christian authors created complex and sometimes contradictory notions of Christian identity through strategic use of opposition to and identification with representations of Jews that are shaped through Christian self-definition. Even as they attempt to present Christian identity as complete and whole, Christian

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Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - Introduction- Made, Not Born 1
  • 2 - The Hermeneutics of Difference 21
  • 3 - Reprioritizing the Prioress’s Tale 58
  • 4 - Creating the Christian in Late Medieval East Anglian Drama 101
  • 5 - "O What a Goodly outside Falsehood Hath!" Exegesis and Identity in the Merchant of Venice 138
  • Conclusion 168
  • Abbreviations 173
  • Notes 175
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 265
  • Acknowledgments 275
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