Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Great Regulars: When she ate the fruit

of the tree of knowledge, God laid a series of curses on her, including the phrase, "your craving shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." This "ruling over," Rav Yitzchak explains, means that the man always has the initiative in sexual matters. Still, the rabbis hold, the woman does have ways of making her desires known: "acting in a pleasing manner," the Gemara says, is the wife's way of "petitioning."

from Adam Kirsch: Tablet: How the Talmud Maps Behavior by Exploring Definitions, Not Listing Rules


Yet the Book of Joshua was written or edited centuries later, at a time when the land was, in fact, chock full of Canaanites. As Alter writes, "if the Canaanites seem to have disappeared, it was not because they were extirpated but because they had been assimilated by the Israelites." And that assimilation remained very partial: Again and again in Ancient Israel, we read about how the Israelites were just as likely to assimilate to Canaanite ways, erecting sacred poles to the gods and worshiping Baal. The authors and editors of the Bible often resort to ingenious tactics to cover up this fact.

from Adam Kirsch: Tablet: Robert Alter Wants Us To Think More Seriously About the Bible as Literature


Cigarettes are, of course, one way of marking the period--the great age when everybody smoked, which now seems almost as incredible as if everyone were constantly going around drinking arsenic. But there is also, as the Arendt and Sontag cases show, some natural affinity between smoking and the intellectual. Thinking is famously impossible to portray on screen or on stage--think of all those biopics of writers and composers, in which hair-tearing or frantic scribbling is meant to represent the throes of inspiration. Really, however, thinking is more like smoking--solitary, apparently effortless and productless, and in the end not very good for you.

from Adam Kirsch: New Republic: Smoking and the Intellectual: 'Susan Sontag: Reborn' turns intellectual evolution into drama


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