This article presents a new approach to understanding the discourse of the Babylonian Talmud and the ways it generates meaning. This approach is rooted in Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism as explicated in his “Discourse in the Novel” and is based on a reevaluation of the literary and theoretical implications of the findings of the previous generation of textual philological Talmudic scholarship. The article challenges previous efforts by Daniel Boyarin and Barry Scott Wimpfheimer to apply Bakhtin’s thought to the Talmud. The final section presents a close reading of a Talmudic passage which demonstrates how this new approach sheds fresh light on the place of the feminine voice in the Talmud.
Talmud as Novel: Dialogic Discourse and the Feminine Voice in the Babylonian Talmud
Moshe Simon-Shoshan is senior lecturer in the Department of the Literature of the Jewish People at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. He is the author of Stories of the Law: Narrative Discourse and the Construction of Authority in the Mishnah (2012) and other studies on rabbinic narrative, culture, and law, including “Did the Rabbis Believe in Agreus Pan? Rabbinic Relationships with Roman Power, Culture, and Religion” in the Harvard Theological Review (2018), “Creators of Worlds: The Deposition of R. Gamliel and the Invention of Yavneh” in the AJS Review (2017), and “‘People Talking without Speaking’: The Semiotics of the Rabbinic Legal Exemplum” in Law and Literature (2013).
Moshe Simon-Shoshan; Talmud as Novel: Dialogic Discourse and the Feminine Voice in the Babylonian Talmud. Poetics Today 1 March 2019; 40 (1): 105–134. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7259915
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