The Monstrous Mame: Mapping the Margins of Maternity in Early Modern Jewish Discourse

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The early modern period witnessed a surge in European interest in cases of newbornchild murder. Beginning in the sixteenth century, infanticide became the object of intense literary, anthropological, and scientific curiosity and the target of a wide range of laws and prosecutions throughout Europe. Contemporary Jews shared this lewd fascination, engaging the image of the murderous parent in order to define, challenge, and redefine their own notions of civilization and gender and to tackle certain political and social issues, particularly the problem of feminine agency. This article offers a reading of some of these representations against the context of the dominant non-Jewish discourses of the period, exploring the ways in which infanticide served Jewish authors as a testing ground for various, often conflicting understandings of femininity, maternity, sexuality, and womanhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-71
Number of pages35
JournalJewish Social Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Femininity ; Sons ; Child molestation ; Articles ; Vagina ; Jewish history ; Infanticide ; Children ; Single women ; Murder ; Mothers


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