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Marc Epstein: Women and Other Monsters

What would we say-what could we say- when faced with a work of art that depicted women as monstrous hybrid beings, as monsters?
And what would it say about Jewish visual culture, Jewish culture, Judaism itself if it were to transpire that the image in question was in a venerable Jewish prayerbook, in which all the images of men were perfectly normal, even dignified portrayals? The expected reaction-ugly misogyny-is certainly one part of the answer. But peculiarities of this book as a whole, and of the other images in it transform the image into one that deserves further and deeper consideration.

Marc Michael Epstein, Professor on the Mackie M. Paschall (1899) & Norman Davis Chair in Religion and Visual Culture at Vassar College was Vassar's first Director of Jewish Studies. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, received the PhD at Yale University, and did much of his graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews. His 2011 book, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (Yale University Press) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of the year. His 2015 Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Manuscript Illumination (Princeton University Press)-a magisterial large-format survey of the genre with over 300 illustrations in brilliant digital color-was the winner of the National Jewish Book Award. His latest work, People of the Image: Jews & Art, will be published by Penn State University Press later this year. During the 80s, Epstein was Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby's Judaica department, and continues to serve as consultant to various libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world. He currently serves as the director of Beit Venezia, The Home of Jewish Culture, in Venice Italy.

This lecture is part of the NC Jewish Studies Consortium sponsored by Appalachian State University, North Carolina State University, Elon University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Wilmington, Wake Forest University