Marriage and Metaphor : Constructions of Gender in Rabbinic Literature
Beginning with the opening of Mishnah Kiddushin, 'A woman is acquired (in marriage)...by money, by document, or by sexual intercourse,' and using other examples of commercial language applied to marriage across the rabbinic canon, this work demonstrates that rabbis used information from the realm of property and commercial transactions to structure their understanding and reasoning about marriage and gender relations through a metaphor of women as ownable and marriage as a purchase or acquisition.
- Hardback | 300 pages
- 154.94 x 231.14 x 27.94mm | 566.99g
- 26 Oct 2009
- Lexington Books
- Lanham, MD, United States
This highly original and important study demonstrates how language associated with acquisition underlies rabbinic Judaism's legal understanding of marriage. While carefully and convincingly analyzing the rabbinic metaphor of women as 'ownable,' Gail Labovitz also argues for essential transformations if women are to attain an equal status in the Judaism of the future . -- Judith R. Baskin, University of Oregon Labovitz advances the project to a new level, revealing, through her readings, false dichotomies in our thought processes themselves. Rethinking Jewish Weddings, June 2010 Labovitz's close textual analyses emerge from the intersection of linguistic theory and Jewish studies...Labovitz advances the project to a new level, revealing, through her readings, false dichotomies in our thought processes themselves. Sh'ma, A Journal Of Jewish Responsibility, August 2010 Marriage and Metaphor argues that the dominant model by which rabbis and rabbinic culture construct marriage and gender relations in marriage is a metaphor of property and ownership. Gail Labovitz does not shy away from the broader implications of her work-especially as a rabbi, wife, mother, and a teacher of future rabbis and Jewish educators. She provocatively ends her book by raising some disturbing questions about her own status as a scholar, rabbi, teacher, and Jewish wife. These are bold and gutsy things to do and Labovitz does them brilliantly in this important study. -- Laura S. Levitt, author of Jews and Feminism: The Ambivalent Search for Home and editor of Judaism Since Gender In Marriage and Metaphor, Gail Labovitz provides an illuminating analysis of the metaphors that structure and shape rabbinic conceptions of marriage. She draws on the cognitive metaphor theory of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, who understand metaphor as the primary means through which humans reason and imagine. Metaphors profoundly structure ourlives, shaping and constraining our knowledge and imaginations. Accordingly, Labovitz argues that metaphors do not simply convey rabbinic ideas about gender, but that they serve as the central means through which a culture's gender system is made. She probes the implications of the dominant rabbinic metaphor of marriage as an act of acquisition and demonstrates the stark disparities of power and agency these metaphors encode. ...Labovitz makes visible the deep significance of ownership paradigms in rabbinic thought, illuminating how profoundly the cognitive framework of marriage as acquisition structures rabbinic gender relations. Labovitz makes a convincing argument that these power differentials cannot be defanged by professing that rabbinic marriage is 'not really' an act of acquisition or that the rituals of marriage are 'merely symbolic.' The metaphors of marriage have a powerful and pervasive reach. Amidst her recognition that paradigms of acquisition characterized her own wedding ceremony and those of many contemporary Jews, Labovitz closes with a moving acknowledgment of her own unsettled questions-and invites further reflection on the metaphors by which we marry. Conservative Judaism
About Gail Labovitz
Gail Labovitz is associate professor of rabbinics at the American Jewish University, where she teaches rabbinic literature and Jewish law, primarily for the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. She has also served as a senior research analyst for the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project at Brandeis University and as the coordinator of the Jewish Feminist Research Group for the Women's Studies Program at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Table of contents
Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Chapter 1. A Woman is Acquired: Metaphor and Marriage Chapter 3 Chapter 2. He Forbids Her to All: Polysemy and the Rabbinic Vocabulary of Betrothal Chapter 4 Chapter 3. My Wife I Called "My House": Elaborating the Metaphor of Women as Property Chapter 5 Chapter 4. The Purchase of His Money: At the Intersection(s) of Gender and Servitude Chapter 6 Chapter 5. Go to Your Ketubah: Bridewealth, Dowry, and the Rabbinic Marriage Contract Chapter 7 Conclusion