Filth: A (Literally) Dirty History of Jewish Texts
Manuscripts found in the garbage; ancient scroll fragments digested and excreted by rats; precious texts written in pus on leprous skin. Across the boundaries between history, legend, and fiction, Jewish writings are surprisingly often associated with contamination and decay. From the Bar Kokhbah letters through the Zohar to SY Agnon, this talk explores what images of filth and refuse reveal about the cultural logic of sacred texts and ancient pasts.
Eva Mroczek, an alumna of the Department for the Study of Religion/Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies (2012), is a scholar of early Jewish literary cultures and book history. Her first book, The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity (2016), conceptualized how early Jews imagined their own scriptures before the formation of a biblical canon. Her forthcoming book, Out of the Cave: The Possibility of a New Biblical Past, is about ancient and modern manuscript discovery stories as a literary and religious genre. Currently Associate Professor at the University of California, Davis, she will begin an appointment as the Simon and Riva Spatz Chair in Jewish Studies at Dalhousie University in 2024.