Writing a History of Horror, or What Happens When Monsters Stare Back

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IrisIdelson-Shein Among the many monsters of Jewish lore, one has attracted particular attention. Created of clay and animated through the power of letters, for centuries, the image of the Golem has captivated both Jewish and non-Jewish imagination. In one of the most widely read versions of the tale, the monster is brought to life by the inscription of the Hebrew letters aleph, mem, and taph on its forehead, forming the Hebrew word emet — truth. When, after a while, it becomes too strong to handle, the Golem’s creator removes the first letter of the inscription, thus changing the word emet to met — dead — and the Golem is at once vanquished. In discussing the Golem’s facial inscription, scholars have often pointed to the mystical meanings of the term emet. And yet, the notion of a truth inscribed into the flesh of a monster is a recurring theme in European imagination
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMonsters and Monstrosity in Jewish History
Subtitle of host publicationFrom the Middle Ages to Modernity
EditorsIris Idelson-Shein, Christian Wiese
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
ISBN (Electronic)9781350052154, 9781350052178
ISBN (Print)9781350052147, 9781350052161
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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