“Passing Strange”—Reading Transgender across Genre: Rabbinic Midrash and Feminist Hermeneutics on Esther
This article engages in a gender analysis of the stories of Joseph and Esther in the Hebrew Bible, two characters who rise to prominence within the imperial palace in the Diaspora. Both are distinguished by their beauty and charm, their double-names, and feminine guile; both delay the revelation of their identity (as Hebrew/Jew) until the crisis point. In this study, Adelman appropriates classic midrashic interpretations that sharpen the ironies in the biblical text and adapt them in an explicitly feminist hermeneutics. The question remains: How is this reading both continuous with and subversive of the classic rabbinic reading? By noting the seeming absence of God in these two narratives, Adelman suggests a parallel between the increasing autonomy of the characters in exile as they break gender boundaries, and the awakening of our feminist voices as interpreters.
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