The golem is an elusive creature. From a religious perspective it enacts spirit entering matter, a creation story of potential salvation crossed with reprehensible arrogance. As a historical narrative, the golem story becomes a tale of Jewish powerlessness and oppression, of pogroms and ghettoization, of assimilation and exile, and sometimes, of renewal. As the subject of a course in women, gender and sexuality studies, the golem narrative can be seen as a relentless questioning of otherness and identity and as a revelation of the complex intersectionalities of gender, class, sexuality, race, disability, and ethnicity. As a philosophical motif, the ambiguous figure of the golem represents our human fears that we are not the autonomous individuals we believe ourselves to be. Haunted by specters of artificiality and automatism, we wonder whether we are unique individuals or inexorably programmed by social, cultural, psychological, and biological forces we are just beginning to fathom. As a Jewish story, the golem narrative illuminates the relentless history of anti-Semitism and resistance to blood libels of all sorts, hope for the future as well as despair, and most of all, the need for questioning any narrative we are given if we want to uncover its potential significances. [excerpt]
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Version of Record
Berg, Temma."After the Golem: Teaching Golems, Kabbalah, Exile, Imagination, and Technological Takeover." In Teaching Jewish American Literature. Ed. Roberta Rosenberg and Rachel Rubinstein, 267-75. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2020.
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