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Medieval Studies Book Club: Thou Art the Man: The Masculinity of David in the Christian and Jewish Middle Ages

October 9, 2023 · 6:00 pm · 209 Scheide Caldwell

Program in Medieval Studies

Please join us for our first session of the Medieval Studies Book Club! Our book club is a friendly environment to discuss recent works in the field and connect with fellow travelers across the university, all while enjoying dinner. All graduate students with an interest in the material are invited, no expertise required!

For our first session, we will be reading Ruth Mazo Karras’s Thou Art the Man: The Masculinity of David in the Christian and Jewish Middle Ages (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).

Everyone who registers for our meeting will receive a copy of the book with the expectation that they join our meeting ready to discuss. If you are interested, please email Albert Kohn at ak0429@princeton.edu by September 8. You are invited as well to suggest books you would like to discuss at future meetings.

This meeting is for graduate students only.

About Thou Art the Man:

“How do we approach the study of masculinity in the past?” Ruth Mazo Karras asks. Medieval documents that have come down to us tell a great deal about the things that men did, but not enough about what they did specifically as men, or what these practices meant to them in terms of masculinity. Yet no less than in our own time, masculinity was a complicated construct in the Middle Ages.

In Thou Art the Man, Karras focuses on one figure, King David, who was important in both Christian and Jewish medieval cultures, to show how he epitomized many and sometimes contradictory aspects of masculine identity.  In Jewish and Christian traditions he was warrior, lover, and friend, founder of a dynasty and a sacred poet. But how could an exemplar of virtue also be a murderer and adulterer? How could a physical weakling be a great warrior? How could someone whose claim to the throne was not dynastic be a key symbol of the importance of dynasty? And how could someone who dances with slaves be noble?

Exploring the different configurations of David in biblical and Talmudic commentaries, in Latin, Hebrew, and vernacular literatures across Europe, in liturgy, and in the visual arts, Thou Art the Man offers a rich case study of how ideas and ideals of masculinity could bend to support a variety of purposes within and across medieval cultures.


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