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Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of…
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Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the… (original 1997; edition 1997)

by Daniel Boyarin (Author)

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In a book that will both enlighten and provoke, Daniel Boyarin offers an alternative to the prevailing Euroamerican warrior/patriarch model of masculinity and recovers the Jewish ideal of the gentle, receptive male. The Western notion of the aggressive, sexually dominant male and the passive female reaches back through Freud to Roman times, but as Boyarin makes clear, such gender roles are not universal. Analyzing ancient and modern texts, he reveals early rabbis--studious, family-oriented--as exemplars of manhood and the prime objects of female desire in traditional Jewish society. Challenging those who view the "feminized Jew" as a pathological product of the Diaspora or a figment of anti-Semitic imagination, Boyarin argues that the Diaspora produced valuable alternatives to the dominant cultures' overriding gender norms. He finds the origins of the rabbinic model of masculinity in the Talmud, and though unrelentingly critical of rabbinic society's oppressive aspects, he shows how it could provide greater happiness for women than the passive gentility required by bourgeois European standards. Boyarin also analyzes the self-transformation of three iconic Viennese modern Jews: Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis; Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism; and Bertha Pappenheim (Anna O.), the first psychoanalytic patient and founder of Jewish feminism in Germany. Pappenheim is Boyarin's hero: it is she who provides him with a model for a militant feminist, anti-homophobic transformation of Orthodox Jewish society today. Like his groundbreaking Carnal Israel, this book is talmudic scholarship in a whole new light, with a vitality that will command attention from readers in feminist studies, history of sexuality, Jewish culture, and the history of psychoanalysis.… (more)
Member:shacharr
Title:Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (Volume 8) (Contraversions: Critical Studies in Jewish Literature, Culture, and Society)
Authors:Daniel Boyarin (Author)
Info:University of California Press (1997), Edition: First, 433 pages
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Unheroic Conduct by Daniel Boyarin (1997)

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Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man by Daniel Boyarin is uneven at best. The best parts are very, very good, but there are a number of places where it is almost unreadable. It is pretentious and limited. Also, although the title doesn't say, it is limited to the Orthodox Ashkenazic Jewish people of Eastern Europe.

The initial premise of the book is that after the Jews were expelled from Judah and Jerusalem in the 6th century BCE and then later, in 135 CE,* they needed a center for their unification. Responding to pressure both within and outside the community, the Rabbis moved to form a people using Talmudic studies as the basis of Jewish identification and heritage. The Talmudic scholars deliberately turned away from the oppressors abstract Phallic ideal and all that entails; thrusting, violence, rape, masculinity, fighting and aggression. The Rabbis needed to come to terms with the non-Jewish ideals of the Phallus without losing the reality of the penis which they were NOT trying to eliminate from their culture. They needed to come to terms with the idea without the ideals. The male-bonding, femminizing (Boyarin's word), and the quiet (passive?) ideal of studying tended to form men who looked female-like to the Phallus-driven surrounding cultures. Jewish women were culturally attuned to desire a gentle, studious mate. The author deals with this Jewish ideal in depth (about 200 pages). Then we move abruptly into the late 19th century into the early 20th century. The second half of the book is based on psychoanalysis, Zionism, and then back to psychoanalysis.

One central core of the book (some 100 pages, two of the chapters) on the rise of heterosexuality, are reinterpretations of Freud's life and work. It appears that Freud's theories are based on his fear of his homoerotic if not homosexual attachments and fear of his Jewishness at a time when homophobia and antisemitism were on the rise in Europe. I find his arguments interesting, desire to check some of his references, and find so much emphasis on one man's psychology out of place in an exploration of 2000+ years of a people's gender exploration and theology. I accept Boyarin's statement that heterosexuality was first named in the late 1800s** and used to counterbalance with homosexuality, but even he recognizes that manliness and feminized were concepts used for thousands of years. The concept that castration complex merged with the Jewish tradition of circumcision to create antisemitism is way out there. I cannot decide from the text if it was Freud who made the connection or if it is Boyarin. Whoever made it was cracked.

The Zionist movement was described, by this avowed anti-Zionist, as a move to assimilate Jews into Aryan culture and “make real men” (fighters) of them. In order to become like “all men”, Jewish traditions must be eliminated, and an ersatz Christian civilization put in its place. The Talmud must be forgotten in a move to become invisible. This would, supposedly, put a stop to antisemitism. Jews must become like their oppressors. We can easily see the self-hate in the Zionist and psychoanalytic writings of the period though Boyarin's examples.

The chapter “Retelling the Story of O.” tells the psychiatric story of Anna O. and her subsequent life and activism as Bertha Pappenheim. The chapter has some good points, but it is unclear in the main. I learned more of Anna O's psychoanalysis in a Wiki article than I did in his chapter about her psychoanalysis. The cultural background, as the Jewish “modernizers” and Zionists attempted to take away women's traditional Jewish role in the marketplace and running businesses was more clearly stated in the book. This gave a clearer reason for the endemic problem of “hysteria in” (revolt by) Jewish women at the turn of the 19th/20th century. While most documentation of Bertha Pappenheim's life do not explain what caused the cure, Boyarin places it directly on the shift from modernist Vienna to Orthodox Frankfort. In Frankfort she was able to go out into the world and make a difference. In this Boyarin blames the condition directly on the Zionists and other modernizers who would limit women's roles to the “angel in the house” who still have no access to Hebraic learning, thus giving intelligent women no outlet.

The one sentence that, I think, expresses Boyarin's thesis is on p. 354.
“Rather than a one-sided perception of Jewish men as feminized or of Jewish women as viriagoized, can we not begin to conceive the structure of Jewish gender as being differently configured, as being resistant to ... [rigid] patterns of gender ...?”

The book has the useful footnotes, section on works cited, and index necessary in a scholarly book.

--
* Yes, Peter, the period between the first and second leaving Judah were based on this ideal, and the Talmud includes ways that buying into the oppressors ways (being manly men) were considered collaboration with the enemy.

**The term "heterosexual" was first published in 1892 in C.G. Chaddock's translation of Krafft-Ebing's "Psychopathia Sexualis". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosexuality ( )
  Bidwell-Glaze | Aug 31, 2012 |
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In a book that will both enlighten and provoke, Daniel Boyarin offers an alternative to the prevailing Euroamerican warrior/patriarch model of masculinity and recovers the Jewish ideal of the gentle, receptive male. The Western notion of the aggressive, sexually dominant male and the passive female reaches back through Freud to Roman times, but as Boyarin makes clear, such gender roles are not universal. Analyzing ancient and modern texts, he reveals early rabbis--studious, family-oriented--as exemplars of manhood and the prime objects of female desire in traditional Jewish society. Challenging those who view the "feminized Jew" as a pathological product of the Diaspora or a figment of anti-Semitic imagination, Boyarin argues that the Diaspora produced valuable alternatives to the dominant cultures' overriding gender norms. He finds the origins of the rabbinic model of masculinity in the Talmud, and though unrelentingly critical of rabbinic society's oppressive aspects, he shows how it could provide greater happiness for women than the passive gentility required by bourgeois European standards. Boyarin also analyzes the self-transformation of three iconic Viennese modern Jews: Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis; Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism; and Bertha Pappenheim (Anna O.), the first psychoanalytic patient and founder of Jewish feminism in Germany. Pappenheim is Boyarin's hero: it is she who provides him with a model for a militant feminist, anti-homophobic transformation of Orthodox Jewish society today. Like his groundbreaking Carnal Israel, this book is talmudic scholarship in a whole new light, with a vitality that will command attention from readers in feminist studies, history of sexuality, Jewish culture, and the history of psychoanalysis.

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