Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Translating Purity: Jewish Law and the Construction of Difference in Late Old English Literature
by Pareles, Mo, Ph.D., New York University, 2014, 219; 3638899
Abstract (Summary)

"Translating Purity: Jewish Law and the Construction of Difference in Late Old English Literature" examines the cultural translation of Jewish purity and sacrifice laws in Anglo-Saxon England. It is a study of the counterintuitive uses to which early English writers put Jewish ideas about purity, including that of defense against the potential pollution of Christianity's own Jewish ancestry. Using the insights of translation studies, animal studies, and queer theory, it demonstrates that Jewish purity laws haunt Anglo-Saxon literature as both foundation and foil for Christian human identity. Examining the regulation of food and sex in late Old English Biblical literature, with particular attention to the Old English Heptateuch and Ælfric's homilies and hagiographies, reveals that Jewish law paradoxically provided both a basis for medieval Christian sexual norms and a counterpoint to monastic chastity, and that Jewish distinctions between unclean and clean animals structured medieval English ideas of purity and difference. Further, the dissertation proposes a concept called supersessionary translation to explain the deceptively patchwork methods of these translations: at first glance they appear to dismiss irrelevant Jewish laws according to an arbitrary pattern, but closer analysis reveals that they are masterful attempts to subject the legacy of Judaism, through translation, to the control of a system that has officially superseded it.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Momma, Haruko
Commitee: Dinshaw, Carolyn, Kruger, Steven F.
School: New York University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 76/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Medieval literature, Religious history, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Aelfric, Bible translation, Jewish-christian relations, Meat, Old english, Old testament
Publication Number: 3638899
ISBN: 978-1-321-23027-7
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