"Hardly There Even When She Wasn't Lost": Orthodox Daughters and the "Mind-Body Problem" in Contemporary Jewish American Fiction
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- University of Nebraska Press
- Volume 22, Number 3, Spring 2004
- pp. 72-94
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This paper analyzes contemporary Jewish fiction to suggest that both writers and their Orthodox daughter protagonists can be viewed as the inheritors and continuation of a literary tradition questioning roles, perceptions of and opportunities for Jewish women. It also proposes that the real "mind-body" problem or dilemma that Orthodox Jewish women confront comes not from the secular world—as Rebecca Goldstein's protagonist Renee presents in The Mind-Body Problem—but from the conservative and traditional religious Jewish world they experienced as children and, in several cases, leave as adults. It is within the confining and constricting world of traditional Judaism and Orthodox Jewish religious observance—traditionally male-dominated—that they experience a kind of disconnect or come to an impasse, finding that they must be perceived as either mind or body but cannot be perceived simultaneously as both.