"Our virgin friends and wives"? Female sexual subjectivity in Yona Wallach's poetry

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Yona Wallach introduced to Hebrew poetry an innovative discourse on gender and sexuality. The article claims that one of the issues that preoccupied Wallach throughout her poetic career was that of female sexual subjectivity, of the ways in which a woman can occupy the position of a sexual subject. From the outset, her approach to this question was radically different from that of her predecessors in Hebrew poetry, and the answers she devised changed with the evolution of her poetics, leading her eventually to a performative understanding of gender that anticipated formulations generated by feminist and queer thought in the 1990s. Beginning with a comparison of Wallach's "Cornelia" to Dahlia Ravikovitch's "Mechanical Doll" that highlights the refusal of the former to identify with the traditional feminine position of objectification and victimization, the paper proceeds to show her appropriation of a male voice in order to produce sexual discourse. In her later poetry Wallach develops an understanding of gender as non-dichotomous, performative, and fluid, one that enables her to produce sexual discourse in the first person feminine. This understanding receives overt expression in her didactic poems, but it is also enacted performatively in the sexual fantasy poems of the book Wild Light.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-356
Number of pages24
JournalHebrew Studies
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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