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Abstract: When American Jewish writers write about sexual violence against Jewish women in the Holocaust, they talk around the subject. Rape is implied. Sexual slavery described in broad strokes. Euphemisms abound to explain scenes in which women use sex in an attempt to bargain their way to survival. By contrast, when Israeli Jewish women write about sexual victimization during World War Two, there is a direct attention to detail; in fact, the sexual sadism experienced by the female characters is often a central point of the text. My talk will explore how the literary treatment of rape can act as a litmus test for a community’s sense of vulnerability or, its opposite, self-assurance, while keeping in mind that obfuscation and euphemism are linguistic acts of denial seeded in the Biblical story of Abraham and Sara’s first sojourn into Egypt.

This talk was delivered at the 2018 Religion and Rape Culture Conference. Click here to see more videos.

Miryam Sivan is a former New Yorker has lived in Israel for twenty years. Much of her fiction is about the experiences of ex-pats in love, in flux, in the liminal space between cultures, languages, and historical epochs. She is a lecturer of English Literature at the University of Haifa. Her book, Belonging Too Well: Portraits of Identity in Cynthia Ozick’s Fiction, was published by SUNY Press (2009). In addition to numerous scholarly publications, she translated On the Blossoming, a book of poems by Leah Goldberg (1992).

Her short fiction has appeared in Lilith, Arts and Letters, Wasafiri, Jewish Quarterly, and other publications. A collection of short stories, SNAFU and Other Stories was published in 2015. Her novel, Make it Concrete, will be published in the fall of 2018 by Cuidono Press in NYC.

Header image: Taken from the cover of “And the Rat Laughed” by Nava Semel

Tags : American Jewish fictionAmerican Jewish writersJewish fictionReligion and Rape CultureReligion and Rape Culture conferenceSexual Violence in FictionThe HolocaustWorld War Two
Miryam Sivan

The author Miryam Sivan

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