RN 337 Gender and Judaism
Spring 2014

Writing Assignment 2

Write a five-page paper on the following topic:

...if the son is compared to wine, then the daughter is nothing but vinegar; if a son is as wheat, then the daughter is like barley. True: there is a need for wine and a need for vinegar, but the need for wine is greater than for vinegar; so too, one needs both wheat and barley but–the need for wheat is greater than that for barley... Dvora Baron, “The First Day”


Barren women, orphaned children, divorce… these themes are given lavish attention in the short stories of Dvora Baron that we will read. Born in a Lithuanian shtetl in 1887, she emigrated to Palestine in 1910. Baron wrote in Hebrew as well as Yiddish and was the most significant female author of the modern Hebrew renaissance of the early twentieth century. But much of her creative reflection was devoted to the world she had left behind rather than the world that was being built around her in Palestine.

There has been a revival of interest in the work of Baron over the past twenty years or so. Much of this has to do with a broader interest in reassessing modern Jewish history with the perspective of gender analysis. As historians like Shulamit Magnus (Eastern Europe) and Marion Kaplan (Western Europe) have forced a re-evaluation of Jewish assimilation in modernity by taking women and gender into account, literary scholars are revising their thinking about the development of modern Hebrew Literature by adding readers as well as writers to the picture, exploring the intersection between Yiddish and Hebrew work, and paying attention to “lost” figures like Baron.

The writing of both Amos Oz and Dan Ben Amotz helped to create a new "modern" image of Israeli masculinity a generation after Baron. Baron was looking back toward Europe (at the same time she was helping to craft a new Hebrew language and literary culture). Oz and Ben Amotz were clearly looking forward toward a new kind of Jewish society and Jewish identity. All of them engage in some way with the gendered experience of Judaism past and present.

For your second paper, I would like you to write on gender, tradition, and modernity as it appears in early Israeli fiction, represented here by Baron’s short story "Fradl" (1951), Dan Ben Amotz's story "Parent's Day" (1962), and Amos Oz' story "The Way of the Wind" (1965). You should use the Iris Parush reading on Marginality and Modernization in Nineteenth-Century Eastern European Jewish Society as background to make sense of the transitions in evidence. Feel free to reference other readings from the course syllabus, providing proper citation when/if you do.

Your paper will be judged on the care with which you construct your analysis, the quality of the writing (including grammar and spelling, effective style), and your mastery of the material. Use appropriate passages from the texts to support your analysis! You need to show me how you come to the conclusions you reach. You may use parenthetical citations or footnotes to cite your sources. I will post a rubric to the assignment page to help you in your planning and execution.

Papers should be double spaced, 12 point font, 1.25” margins left and right. Papers should be submitted to the Learn assignment page before the start of class on Tuesday, April 1. Late papers will lose four points for each day they are late.