Eroto-Philology: Sex, Language, and Yiddish History

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This essay offers an original tool, eroto-philology, in order to explore the crucial role that linguistic particularities play in the study of sexuality, and the role sexuality plays in the study of language, focusing on the unique case of modern Yiddish. In the case of Yiddish, the sexual and the linguistic, the erotic and the philological, shared a similar positioning: where Jewish sexuality was considered deviant, so too the language itself was considered abnormal and deviant. This article will begin a larger project of reversing the dominant perspective, by exploring how Jews formulated their own notions of their language and bodies, writing philology and sexology in their own tongue. The focus of this article will be the role of sexuality in Yiddish linguistic projects spanning 1913–1990, and each of these projects will be treated as an incomplete archive, first because Yiddish was emerging and later because of its imminent decline. Taking into account the shifting historical realities of Yiddish and its speakers, eroto-philology will serve as a methodological mediation between body and text, activating the materiality of reading each, and both, together.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-69
Number of pages12
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Yiddish
  • archive
  • erotics
  • history
  • philology
  • sexology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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