Issue 24 /
n.2 (2023) Focus Introduction

Jewish Masculinities, 1200-1800

DOI : 10.48248/issn.2037-741X/14385
A knight on horseback, with caption “Yosef”. Yonah Pentateuch, London, British Library, Add. 21160, fol. 192v. Knight from BL Add 21160, f. 192v (Public Domain)


This special issue of Quest presents new research on experiences and perceptions of Jewish masculinity in medieval northwestern Europe and early modern Polish and Italian lands between 1200 and 1800. A small but growing field investigating aspects of pre-modern Jewish masculinity is an important addition to the robust research on medieval and early modern masculinities informed by gender and sexuality studies that literary scholars, social and cultural historians, and art historians have produced over the past three decades.1 Masculinity studies often blur extant disciplinary boundaries and rely on multiple sources and methodologies to investigate both representations and lived lives of men.2 In general, however, there is still limited research on premodern non-Christian experiences, although attending to both gender and religious difference intersectionally can prove productive.3 Since studies of gender are inherently interested in power dynamics and hierarchies, understanding Jewish men as gendered offers new perspectives on both intra-Jewish and Jewish-Christian relations: it allows us to pry open mechanisms of competition and domination within the Jewish community that may have escaped historians, and to frame the precariousness and attainments of premodern Jewish life in Christian lands in novel ways.

Excellent historiographical surveys on medieval and early modern masculinities already exist.4 The next few pages intend to give a sense of research questions and intersections between general and Jewish history in light of the range of topics addressed in this issue: articulations of medieval Jewish manhood, as perceived by Christians and as experienced by Jewish men of different ages (Sewell and Levinson); the disparaging representation of Jewish men in English Renaissance drama (Friedman); male sexuality as reflected through kabbalistic ideals and practices (Stillman); Jewish-Christian male homosociality (Aron-Beller); and evolving articulations of patriarchal merchant masculinities (Bregoli).

Several important contributions on premodern European manliness began appearing in the mid-1990s.5 The earliest comprehensive effort to investigate medieval and Renaissance men as men was published in 1994, as the proceedings of a 1990 Fordham conference entitled “Gender and Medieval Society: Men.”6 This volume set much of the research agenda that has informed the history of medieval masculinity studies since.7 It countered the notion that studying medieval men’s history meant to study “universal history,” instead applying a feminist perspective to varied understandings of manliness. At the time, the editors grappled with their choice. The preface by Thelma Fenster is tellingly entitled, “Why men?,”8 while Clare Lees programmatically emphasized that the volume’s focus on men was not “a return to traditional subjects that imply a neglect of feminist issues, but a calculated contribution to them, which can be formulated as a dialectic.”9 Natalie Zemon Davis’ remark that “we should be interested in the history of both women and men […] we should not be working only on the subjected sex any more than an historian of class can focus exclusively on peasants” was quoted several times in the volume.10

Thirty years later, the field no longer needs justifying, as the rich body of literature available today demonstrates—in John Tosh’s formulation, its aim is not so much to provide “symmetry or balance” to women’s history, but rather to contribute to a necessary holistic view of pre-modern gender systems.11 But how do we read premodern Jewish men into the existing scholarship on European premodern masculinity? Do they align with or contradict representations and behaviors highlighted over the past thirty years? Before we can address these questions, a few words are in order about commonly accepted notions of medieval and early modern manhood.

Displaying sexual prowess or defending one’s honor and reputation through violence against other men and dominance over women are frequently associated with premodern masculine behaviors, yet realities were more complex for both Jews and non-Jews.12 Medieval and early modern masculinities had sometimes conflicting connotations. Masculine honor and virtue could be articulated in contradictory ways leaving medieval men “to reconcile acts of abstinence, sexual prowess, adventure, and domestication.”13 Among the elites, ideals of rationality as man’s supreme virtue emerged as humanist education took hold, leading to the policing and regulation of the male body and its debasing vis-à-vis the male mind.14 In turn, manhood and effeminacy, its alleged polar opposite, maintained a constant, uneasy relationship during the Renaissance. Norms and representations evolved subtly, as “the benefits of patriarchy became […] redistributed,” in Alexandra Shepard’s astute definition.15 As the Protestant and Catholic Reformations reshaped European religious institutions, aspirations, and models of government and authority, notions of manhood resisted or adapted.16 The eighteenth century has often been taken as a dividing line between premodern and modern masculine sensibilities. Histories of the public sphere suggest an ostensible “civilizing process” over the course of the eighteenth century, whereby older masculine notions of violence and aggression were allegedly subsumed into gentlemanly ideals of polite society.17 George Mosse notably pointed to the late eighteenth-century emergence of middle class bourgeois society as a turning point in the creation of a comprehensive “masculine stereotype” that combined moral and physical strength, idolized male bodily beauty, and provided fodder to virile nation-building efforts.18

Regardless of its varied articulations, masculinity was always contestable and understood to be at risk, a fact that obtained for all social groups in different historical periods. It needed to be learned, gained, maintained, and proved to other men and to women over time.19 Household dynamics and power relations between husbands and wives, which have been the object of intense study based on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century documents, notoriously highlight forms of anxious masculinity, emphasizing the gap between ideals of what it meant to be a pater familias, on the one hand, and lived experiences that routinely challenged prescriptive norms of patriarchal manliness, on the other.20 Premodern masculinities were not monolithic, in sum, and even more dominant forms displayed remarkable complexity.21 The spectrum of masculine aspirations aligned with differences in status, activity, and geographic location. The medieval knight, the scholar, the Catholic priest and the Reformed minister, the craftsman, the merchant, the urban poor, the early modern middling businessman and the landed gentleman—all had specific masculine ambitions and ideals. And to be sure, representations and expressions of masculinity specific to a given social order or class were not sealed off from each other but could and did intersect.22

A Non-Hegemonic Jewish Masculinity?

The intricate relationship between Jewish and non-Jewish masculinities is a vexed question. Within the broader discipline of Jewish studies, interest in masculinity appeared in concomitance with the growth of critical “men’s studies,” an antisexist reconsideration of the role and position of men in society which emerged out of the second wave of US feminism in the 1970s. Contemporary or modern issues were, and generally continue to be, the emphasis, even as the term “men’s studies” gave way to “masculinity studies” in the 1990s. In the late 1980s, feminist Jewish scholars led by sociologist Harry Brod—one of the pioneers of the “new men’s studies” in North America23—turned their focus to articulations of American Jewish male identity, intergenerational Jewish male relations, the intersections of antisemitism and sexism, and calls for a self-aware male Jewish social activism.24 This activist work, championed by progressive Jewish religious leaders, therapists, and literary and cultural critics, only tangentially impacted academic research, but in the 1990s, Brod further promoted efforts to theorize Jewish masculinity studies. He did so in light of the notion of “hegemonic masculinity,” first formulated in the early 1980s and later notably elaborated on by R.W. Connell, the Australian sociologist whose work has left an enduring imprint on the study of modern masculinities.25

This idea, stimulated by the gay liberation movement and gay histories, posits plural articulations of masculinity in a given time and place, all relationally inscribed within a field of power, rejecting the simplistic notion that “the history of masculinity is the story of the modulation, through time, of the expressions of a more or less fixed entity.”26 Instead, early proponents of the concept of hegemonic masculinity argued that the hegemonic variety dominates over subordinate articulations, asserting that hegemonic masculinity is always constructed in relation to nonhegemonic kinds and to women. As Connell put it, hegemonic masculinity “occupies the hegemonic position in a given pattern of gender relations, a position always contestable.”27 Although the concept has been at times misappropriated, essentialized and reified, or incorrectly applied transhistorically, the idea has had a productive impact on scholarship on gender, furthering the hierarchical complexity of gender power dynamics.28

Turning to Jewish men as expressions of nonhegemonic masculinity, Brod suggested that Jewish male standards emerge out of a double bind generated by “foreign gender norms imposed by the hegemonic culture,” as well as “specifically Jewish patriarchal norms within a culture that valorizes intellectual over physical prowess.”29 The example he selected is telling of an enduring trope of Jewish masculinity. “The ideal of the intellectual Jewish male,” Brod argued, “is held to so strongly because it emerges both from within the intellectual traditions of Jewish culture and as a defense mechanism against attacks on Jewish men for not conforming to dominant, more brawny standards of masculinity.”30 The notion of Jewish men as expressing a nonhegemonic form of masculinity that hinges around intellectual, rather than physical, pursuits found proponents in other subfields as well, and looms large on the study of medieval and early modern Jewish manliness.

Concomitantly with the endeavors of sociologists like Connell and Brod, two areas of Jewish research turned to manliness. Scholars of rabbinic literature like Michael Satlow and Daniel Boyarin started investigating Talmudic concepts of manliness, homosociality, and homoeroticism in the early 1990s.31 Almost simultaneously, another branch of the new Jewish cultural studies that came to the fore during those years proceeded to contribute to understandings of Jewish masculinity through its prominent focus on sexuality and the body. In particular, the research of David Biale on Jewish sexuality over the centuries and of Sander Gilman on clinical understandings of the Jewish body and psyche in modern Europe had much to say about conceptions of Jewish manliness, both within Jewish tradition and as deployed by antisemites.32

These books provided a nuanced investigation of a powerful modern trope—the notion of the feminized, pathologically weak male Jew of the Diaspora and its ideological opposite, the oversexed Jewish man, both despised by Zionists and antisemites alike. These topoi have inflected understandings of pre-modern Jewish masculinity as well.33 The 1997 publication of Daniel Boyarin’s Unheroic Conduct was an important turning point in this respect. Boyarin’s controversial take on rabbinic masculinity helped inscribe the notion of the nonhegemonic/counter-hegemonic Jewish man further in the literature, with implications for the study of pre-modern Jewish history.

In Boyarin’s interpretation, the traditional Ashkenazi rabbinic ideal of the effeminate man, which in his view dominated from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century, arose from ancient Talmudic interpretations that resisted Roman gender paradigms of active masculinity and passive femininity. The rabbis’ model posited instead a form of “gentle, timid, and studious” masculinity defined in opposition to the warrior-like Christian trope popular in European romances.34 Far from being unerotic, moreover, the feminized, delicate yeshivah bocher (Torah scholar) is the ultimate object of Jewish female sexual desire and a powerfully sexual being himself.35 If anti-Jewish tropes had depicted European Jewish men as womanly, Boyarin claims that the feminized Jewish man was not an antisemitic invention: Jewish culture assertively created a form of Torah-centric “alternative gendering” to distinguish itself from its surroundings (to be sure, women were also deliberately excluded from this male homosocial system, actively set to subordinate and subjugate them).36 Thus, premodern Ashkenazi culture was “openly resistant to and critical of the prevailing ideology of “manliness” dominant in Europe,” while its consciously negative presentation of non-Jewish men was a form of anticolonial opposition to the hegemonic, dominant culture.37 It was only in the modern period, as a result of the (allegedly) assimilationist impulses of Zionism and psychoanalysis, that a new Jewish man would be invented, supplanting the older model of the “soft man.”

Boyarin’s thought-provoking meditation is above all a deeply personal and political work. Historical truth was never the author’s goal, although his formulations, based on little to no historical evidence, have sometimes been (mis)taken as reflecting empirical realities.38 In fact, Boyarin aimed to recover from Talmudic discourse “the “best” of what Jewish culture has offered in the past,” in the hope of informing a novel, feminist, and anti-homophobic Orthodox Judaism.39 But as medieval and early modern historians show, the idea of the pre-modern “Jewish sissy” publicized by Boyarin should be heavily corrected.40

Certainly, historical and literary research has argued convincingly that pre-modern Christianity did at times imagine Jewish men as effeminate and powerless.41 As Becky Friedman shows in this issue, sixteenth-century English playwrights presented emasculated Jewish figures and disparaged Jewish male bodies to make audiences laugh while reasserting the ideal of Christian dominance. Through an analysis of canonical examples of Renaissance drama—Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta—Friedman argues that English playwrights depicted Jewish characters that were not only weak and unmanly, usually to achieve humorous effects, but also bordering on the inhuman; in this way, popular culture reproduced and reinforced Jewish-Christian hierarchies, forever reminding the spectator of Jewish inferiority and subordination. An overview of performance history through portrayals of Shylock from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries corroborates this finding: “He crouches, hunches, and crawls. He leers, sneers, and scowls. He also grasps […].”42 These violently negative tropes continued perilously in the modern period.43

In turn, Talmudic discourse undoubtedly did promote forms of intellectual, rather than physical, masculinity. Still, pace Boyarin, scholars of rabbinics have convincingly emphasized that the rabbis’ masculinity was articulated around violently agonistic, war-like notions of scholarly discipline and conflict.44 Early modern judicial sources, communal deliberations, and halakhic responsa further show that the ideal notion of a gentle Jewish man was not necessarily borne out in reality; in fact, aggressive behavior vis-à-vis other men and women was not only acceptable but also accepted within Jewish communities.45 Moreover, we should not assume that Talmudic concepts of masculinity were universally embraced, or embraced at all times, by Jewish men and women; to the contrary, we can safely presume they were the purview of a small elite, alongside other established notions of what it meant to become and be a Jewish man.46 As the pieces by Levinson, Aron-Beller, and Bregoli demonstrate, Jewish men regularly adopted forms of masculinity that paralleled those embraced by non-Jews around them.

Jewish and Non-Jewish Masculinities in Dialogue

If representations of Jews as effeminate and weak were common currency in English Renaissance drama, an earlier moment in English history highlights that Jewish masculinity could have a positive connotation for at least a class of Christian men: clerics faced with new ecclesiastical impositions of celibacy. Scholarly comparisons between medieval lay and clerical masculinities have received a great deal of attention. JoAnn McNamara’s early theoretical intervention on what she dubbed the Herrenfrage (the question of men) paved the way. The topic raises thought-provoking questions for Jewish history, as male celibacy was never glorified in mainstream Judaism.47 In McNamara’s interpretation, the whole western Christian gender system underwent a restructuring between 1050 and 1150 due to “broad social changes, complicated by the ideological struggle between celibate and married men for leadership of the Christian world.”48 The Herrenfrage is a complement to the Frauenfrage (the question of women), formulated by Karl Bücher in 1882.49 McNamara claims that clerical celibacy brought about not only the Frauenfrage, but also “a crisis of masculine identity”: “If men who repudiated connection with women not only remained men, but even claimed to be superior to other men, what did this mean to the self-image of men in the secular world?”50

Rebekah Sewell’s essay in this collection addresses this long-standing issue when comparing evolving Christian clerical masculinities in thirteenth-century England with non-celibate Jewish masculinity, unexpectedly desirable under new circumstances. Sewell analyzes three chronicles narrating the case of an Oxford deacon who was sentenced to death in 1222 after converting to Judaism and marrying a Jewish woman. The event sheds light on two overlapping developments in thirteenth-century religious history: mounting anti-Judaism, and the Church’s enforcement of reforms imposing celibacy on the English secular clergy, which met with hostility from defenders of clerical marriage. The deacon’s choice is thus read in light of three contemporaneously competing models of pious masculinity: Jewish norms that emphasized the sacrality of marriage, marital sex, and procreation; Anglo-Norman ideals widespread before Lateran IV that celebrated clerical marriage; and Church Reform models that identified male virtue with celibacy and childlessness.51

The question of which ideals of masculinity men could embrace based on the accepted tripartite order of medieval society opens further interesting vistas for Jewish historians working on a population that was not part of the Christian social body but was exposed to, and sometimes shared (or grappled with), many of its values. It has been suggested that knightly ideals exerted a quasi-hegemonic cultural power among medieval men, whether they belonged to the nobility or not. There were great variations in knightly and courtly representations and experiences of manhood—differences existed as well between kingly and knightly articulations and within the knightly construction of gender systems, although notions of honor and power were likely transversal within this social category.52 As Eyal Levinson’s recent monograph shows, young Jews too, usually excluded from the order of “those who fought,” were fascinated by and adapted certain knightly ideals, while simultaneously engaging with masculine ideals as they transpired from rabbinic materials.53 In his article for this issue, Levinson traces the ways in which Jewish texts, images, and material culture from thirteenth- to fifteenth-century England, France, and the German lands provide insights into what he dubs “medieval rabbinic masculinity.”

Ashkenazi rabbinic norms prescribed a man’s obligation to father children while stressing that men were superior to women, favoring the education of boys over that of girls, and circumscribing women’s activities to the domestic sphere. And yet, Jewish male moral and physical ideals (“beauty, strength, wisdom, wealth, honor, hoary head, and children,” in keeping with Mishnah Avot 6:8), as they transpire from medieval texts, coexisted with an attraction to masculine aspirations and behaviors found among non-Jews. This was particularly true among young Jewish men, who enjoyed hunting and falconry, sometimes bore arms and fought, and, to the chagrin of Jewish leaders, very much liked to wear the same clothing styles as non-Jewish men.

Early modern Jewish historiography too has paid attention to male youth culture and its negative perceptions by Jewish patriarchs.54 Elliott Horowitz and Roni Weinstein, focusing on Italian lands, were pioneering in this regard.55 To the contrary, the roles of Jewish husband and father remain less studied,56 although urban householders are a category of premodern men that has received significant attention in general historiography.57 Becoming a householder able to protect the home from internal and external threats, controlling one’s wife and other dependents and protecting the reputation and piety of one’s family name, was an essential masculine ideal—although realities were often more complicated.58 Specific prudential norms, transmitted by parents and surrogate parental figures like an apprentice’s master, were associated with becoming an independent householder in light of dominant patriarchal models.59 European Jewish lay authorities, representing a social body largely involved in urban professions, seem to have shared many of the same concerns about reputation and decorum as their non-Jewish peers. Sources as varied as belletristic literature, conduct manuals, court cases, notarial records documenting marriage and dowering patterns, and wills can be deployed to assess the concepts of masculinity widespread among bachelors and patres familias.60

Investigating which educational models were available to premodern men, how children and adolescents were socialized into them, and the ways in which lived lives deviated from the norms leads us to the intimate world of the family. The sphere of merchant masculinity offers a productive subset of related questions, as those notions of honor and reputation that bolstered mercantile trust and credit were inextricable from concepts of what it meant to be an accomplished husband and father. They too appear to have been largely shared by Christians and Jews across European regions.61 Still, more research is needed to determine how such ideals were articulated at different times, and what specificities distinguished Jews from non-Jews, to avoid the pitfalls of an essentialist take on a transhistorical merchant masculinity.62

My essay aims to nuance understandings of mercantile fatherhood, in light of recent understandings that the experiences of, and models available to, early modern fathers were more complex than previously believed. The piece highlights a specific emotional style found in Jewish personal and communal documents from the late eighteenth century. This “rhetoric of paternal affliction,” as I call it, was expressed by Italian Jewish heads of households in relation to threats to their overlapping paternal and commercial authority, particularly when filial disobedience was involved. Yet, this sentimental display of sorrow was not a show of effeminacy, but rather a display of virtuous masculine ethics. Ultimately, it was an effort to reinforce the unstable status of Jewish patriarchs towards the end of the Old Regime, by forging bonds of sympathy with like-minded Jewish and non-Jewish men, based on the belief that a household in disarray because of disobedient sons simultaneously undermined the natural order of society and caused Jewish economic ruin.

Along with studies of the ways in which men operated within a web of power relations informed by the premodern social order, and research on the cultural construction and representation of masculinity over time, another significant branch of scholarship on premodern manhood has concentrated on understandings of the male body and male sexuality. Drawing on insights from medicine and science, on the footsteps of Michel Foucault’s seminal History of Sexuality,63 cultural historians have explored the ways in which bodies were understood to be sexed—such as the growing knowledge of male and female physiology and anatomy and the increasing awareness of sex differentiation over the course of the early modern period and the Enlightenment.64 In turn, some attention has been paid to religious concerns about the limitations and weaknesses of the sexed male body, with his impulses and involuntary emissions.65 Mystical notions of the body and its urges is another crucial element to ponder. In general historiography, the research on embodied medieval mysticism, spearheaded by Caroline Walker Bynum, has tended to examine women’s experiences, focusing on the female body and highlighting the gender-specific ways in which Christian female mystics accessed avenues of communion with the divine that were traditionally reserved for men.66 Within Zoharic and Lurianic kabbalah, however, mystical takes on male sexuality and the male body come into sharp relief, clarifying Jewish views on the sexualized, male-female body of the divine and its hypostases, the eroticized nature of the mystic’s union with the Godhead, and the regulation of male bodily impulses, intentional and automatic, such as spilled semen.67

While most of the contributors to this issue situate Jewish masculinity in relation to the surrounding Christian culture—whether to examine how Christians understood Jewish men, the ways in which Jewish and Christian men interacted, or the forms in which Jewish men represented themselves to non-Jews—Avinoam Stillman takes us to the heart of Jewish male spirituality and how it may have affected Jewish sexuality. His essay concentrates on the kabbalistic preoccupation with masturbation and “wasted seed” to offer an outline of early modern kabbalistic masculinity, “characterized by a claim to cosmic influence and an imperative to self-discipline.”68 Zoharic and Lurianic kabbalah viewed wasting seed as an act involving sexual intercourse and procreation with demons, with destructive (and yet generative) reverberations at the cosmic level. The writings on wasted seed of two seventeenth-century Polish kabbalists, Meir Popper and his student Joseph Calahora, shed light on notions of permitted sexuality and ever-present sexual temptations rooted in mystical literature, which profoundly informed Ashkenazi culture. By the seventeenth century, kabbalistic views on proper male behavior, sexual comportment, and relations between men and women were no longer solely the purview of learned elites but had seeped into mainstream Eastern European Judaism through ethical tracts and sermons, influencing gender constructs up to this day.

Whereas Jewish kabbalistic and ethical sources were deeply preoccupied with marital sexuality and heterosexual temptations, the organization of medieval and early modern sexuality was not linear. As Michael Rocke incisively suggested in his landmark study of homosexuality in Renaissance Florence, the binary understanding of “straight” and “gay,” so predominant in the twentieth century, does not capture the sexual spectrum that transpires from premodern documents.69 Investigating experiences of male homosociality and homosexuality thus adds another necessary layer to the complexity of medieval and early modern masculinity. Bonds of friendship and brotherhood between men, which flourished both outside and inside of the home, were inscribed within societal webs of power and hierarchy, and so were sexual relations between men. “Friend” was a term used to refer to a patron or a client, to a business partner, to kin— although it could also denote a deeply loved, intimate companion, as Alan Bray showed.70 In turn, homosexual relations were referred to as “sodomy,” a term which technically connoted a broader variety of sexual activities that did not lead to procreation. During the Middle Ages, sodomy, viewed as a perversion of God’s laws and nature, had become a capital sin punishable by death.71 Because of its severity, ad hoc magistracies like Florence’s Ufficiali di Notte were appointed to deal with it.72 In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the Church considered sodomy as a crime of heresy, to be investigated by the Roman and Iberian Inquisitions.73

In the spectrum of male relationships, the virtue of friendship and the grave sin of sodomy seemed to be at opposing ends, and yet physical closeness and intimacy were required of both.74 In her essay, Katherine Aron-Beller takes us inside a Modenese household to examine the violent rape committed by adult Christian men against a boy, an intimate male Jewish-Christian friendship, and dynamics of male domestic labor. These themes all emerge from a 1670 sodomy trial against a Jew, Lazarro Norsa, who served as the household’s tailor and was falsely implicated in the sodomy case by the boy’s father, the household’s coachman. In Italian lands, sodomy was often tolerated and punished with moderation, as long as it conformed to the established patriarchal social structure, with an older man from a higher social rank penetrating a younger partner, usually from a lower social class.75 Sodomy could assert manhood through the sexual submission of younger boys, but an allegation against a Jewish man dangerously subverted these understandings.76 Aron-Beller shows that Norsa’s friendship with his master and his master’s son, whose bed he often shared, granted him protection and patronage, allowing him to escape the trial unscathed.77 In the complex domestic space of an early modern household, male Jewish-Christian friendship was cemented through loyalty, affection, and the physical intimacy of bedsharing.

In conclusion, the essays collected here at times confirm established understandings of pre-modern Jewish men’s behaviors and ideal models, at others correct them. Many questions remain, and fruitful avenues of research await. Back in 1985, Carrigan, Connell and Lee forcefully claimed that “the political meaning of writing about masculinity turns mainly on its treatment of power.”78 While significant attention has been paid to power dynamics in the fraught system of premodern Jewish-Christian relations, new studies of medieval and early modern intra-Jewish hierarchies of power can be facilitated by uncovering constructs of manhood among different Jewish social classes—rabbis, householders, servants, and the poor. An observant reader will have also noticed that this collection primarily explores male-male relations; only tangentially do Jewish women come into view. And yet, women were crucial in the construction of premodern Jewish masculinities—in their familial roles as mothers, daughters, sisters, wives; as elementary school teachers; as co-workers sharing in the economy of domestic labors; as religious models like the biblical matriarchs and heroines. Future research will certainly strive to better integrate relations between women and men into the agenda of premodern Jewish masculinity studies. By attending to gender in relational and intersectional ways, we will be able to bring into even sharper relief what roles and opportunities were open to medieval and early modern Jewish men as men, depending on their multiple social identities and their positionality vis-à-vis other Jewish men, Jewish women, and non-Jews.

1 Inquiries into notions of Jewish masculinity in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe and North America have also been developing for several years, with a recent turn towards the examination of masculinity during the Holocaust. While this growing bibliography is too vast to cite here, see Paul Breines, Tough Jews: Political Fantasies and the Moral Dilemma of American Jewry (New York: Basic Books, 1990); Benjamin Maria Baader, Sharon Gillerman, and Paul Lerner, eds., Jewish Masculinities: German Jews, Gender and History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012); Sarah Imhoff, Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017); Maddy Carey, Jewish Masculinity in the Holocaust: Between Destruction and Construction (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017); Björn Krondorfer and Ovidiu Creangă, eds., The Holocaust and Masculinities: Critical Inquiries into the Presence and Absence of Men (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2020).

2 For a rich overview of the development of the field, see Todd W. Reeser, “Concepts of Masculinity and Masculinity Studies,” in Configuring Masculinity in Theory and Literary Practice, ed. Stefan Horlacher (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 11-38.

3 Notably, Björn Krondorfer, ed., Men and Masculinities in Christianity and Judaism: A Critical Reader (London: SCM Press, 2009) does not include pieces on medieval and early modern Judaism. It is telling that a 2020 three-day conference at the University of Toronto on “Masculinities in the Premodern World: Continuities, Change, and Contradictions” had no single paper on Jewish topics. Additionally, studies of premodern English masculinities still greatly outnumber investigations of continental ones.

4 Reeser, “Concepts of Masculinity and Masculinity Studies”; John H. Arnold and Sean Brady, eds., What is Masculinity? Historical Dynamics from Antiquity to the Contemporary World (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); Denise Bezzina and Michaël Gasperoni, “Mascolinità mediterranee a confronto (Medioevo - Età Moderna). Saggio introduttivo,” Genesis: Rivista della Società Italiana delle Storiche 20, no. 1 (2021): 5-21. Helpful assessments are also included in Jacqueline Murray, “Masculinity and Male Sexuality in the Middle Ages,” Oxford Bibliographies Online in Medieval Studies, accessed December 21, 2023,; Gerry Milligan, “Masculinity,” Oxford Bibliographies Online in Renaissance and Reformation, accessed December 21, 2023,

5 The history of modern masculinities was becoming established exactly at the same time: John Tosh, “What Should Historians Do with Masculinity? Reflections on Nineteenth-Century Britain,” History Workshop 38 (1994): 179-202; for a later reflection, John Tosh, “The History of Masculinity: An Outdated Concept?” in What is Masculinity?, eds. Arnold and Brady, 17-34. An influential contribution to the historical study of masculinity was George Mosse, The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity (New York - Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

6 Clare A. Lees, ed., with Thelma S. Fenster and Jo Ann McNamara, Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages (Minneapolis - London: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).

7 Despite the groundbreaking significance of Lees’ collection, it should be mentioned that two other fields of research had already broached questions of pre-modern masculinity in the 1980s. Scholars of homosexuality published foundational texts in the 1980s. These early works on non-normative sexuality provided important ground for investigations of manhood to follow: John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London: Gay Men’s Press, 1982). English literature also turned to early modern masculinity in the 1980s, utilizing a psychoanalytic lens: Coppelia Kahn, Man’s Estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare (Berkeley - Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981).

8 Thelma Fenster, “Preface: Why Men?,” in Medieval Masculinities, ed. Lees, ix-xiii.

9 Clare A. Lees, “Introduction,” in Medieval Masculinities, ed. Lees, xv-xxv; xv.

10 Natalie Zemon Davis, “Women’s History in Transition: The European Case,” Feminist Studies 3 (1976): 83-103; 90.

11 Tosh, “What Should Historians Do with Masculinity,” 179.

12 Jacqueline Murray, “Premodern Hegemonic Masculinity,” in Patriarchy, Honour, and Violence: Masculinities in Premodern Europe, ed. Jacqueline Murray (Toronto: Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies, 2022), 9-22.

13 Gerry Milligan, “Masculinity, Femininity, and Gender,” in Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England, eds. Diana Maury Robin, Anne R. Larsen, and Carole Levine (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007), 249-253; 250.

14 Ibid., 250.

15 Alexandra Shepard, “From Anxious Patriarchs to Refined Gentlemen? Manhood in Britain, circa 1500–1700,” Journal of British Studies 44 (2005): 281-295; 282.

16 Scott H. Hendrix and Susan C. Karant-Nunn, eds., Masculinity in the Reformation Era (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2008).

17 Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994); Susan Dwyer Amussen, “The Part of a Christian Man: The Cultural Politics of Manhood in Early Modern England,” in Political Culture and Cultural Politics in Early Modern England: Essays Presented to David Underdown, eds. Susan D. Amussen and Mark. A Kishlansky (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 213-233; Michèle Cohen, “‘Manners’ Make the Man: Politeness, Chivalry, and the Construction of Masculinity, 1750–1830,” Journal of British Studies 44 (2005): 312-329.

18 Mosse, The Image of Man.

19 Ruth Mazo Karras, From Boys to Men: Formations of Masculinity in Late Medieval Europe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003).

20 Alexandra Shepard, Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); see also Lyndal Roper, Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion in Early Modern Europe (London - New York: Routledge, 1994). On the interiority and emotions of men, Derek Neal, The Masculine Self in Late Medieval England (Chicago: University of Chicago 2008); Men at Home: Domesticities, Authority, Emotions, and Work, Gender & History 27, no. 3 (2015).

21 Murray, ed., Patriarchy, Honour, and Violence. Shepard, “From Anxious Patriarchs to Refined Gentlemen?,” points out a disconnect within English histories of masculinity due to the different foci and methodologies of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century experts, respectively working on the domestic space and on the public sphere. Other national historiographies have corroborated the notion of anxious masculinities throughout the eighteenth century, see Bregoli’s essay in this issue.

22 Daniel F. Pigg, “Masculinity Studies,” in Handbook of Medieval Studies: Terms, Methods, Trends, 3 vols., ed. Albrecht Classen (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), vol. 1, 829-835.

23 Harry Brod, ed., The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987).

24 Harry Brod, ed., A Mensch among Men: Explorations in Jewish Masculinity (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1988).

25 Harry Brod, “Some Thoughts on Some Histories of Some Masculinities: Jews and Other Others,” in Theorizing Masculinities, eds. Harry W. Brod and Michael Kaufman (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1994), 82-96. The concept emerged in Australian academia in the early 1980s and was presented systematically for the first time in Tim Carrigan, Bob Connell, and John Lee, “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity,” Theory and Society 14, no. 5 (1985): 551-604; 587. For a history of the concept and critiques thereof see R.W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt, “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept,” Gender & Society 19, no. 6 (2005): 829-859.

26 Carrigan, Connell, and Lee, “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity,” 589.

27 R.W. Connell, Masculinities (Berkeley - Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 76.

28 Connell and Messerschmidt, “Hegemonic Masculinity.”

29 Brod, “Some Thoughts on Some Histories of Some Masculinities,” in Theorizing Masculinities, eds. Brod and Kaufman, 91.

30 Ibid.

31 Early examples of research by Talmudic scholars on questions of rabbinic sexuality and manliness are Daniel Boyarin, Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture (Berkeley - Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993); Michael L. Satlow, Tasting the Dish: Rabbinic Rhetorics of Sexuality (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995); Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (Berkeley - Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997), on which more below. For an overview of the “masculinity turn” in Talmud studies see Ishay Rosen-Zvi, “The Rise and Fall of Rabbinic Masculinity,” JSIJ – Jewish Studies, an Internet Journal 12 (2013): 1-22.

32 David Biale, Eros and the Jews: From Biblical Israel to Contemporary America (New York: Basic Books, 1992). In surveying “the internal contradictions in the erotic imagery of Zionism,” Biale touched on early thinking about European Jews’ sexual “abnormalities,” the erotic return to the land (of Israel) as a solution to diasporic dysfunction, and, perhaps most famously, the Revisionists’ celebration of muscle Judaism and virility: ibid., 176-203. Sander Gilman, The Jew’s Body (New York: Routledge, 1991).

33 See for instance the overview in Matthias Morgenstern, “Images of the Feminine Jewish Man. Debates on Masculinities in Rabbinic and Talmudic Culture,” in God’s Own Gender? Masculinities in World Religions, eds. Daniel Gerster and Michael Krüggeler (Baden Baden: Ergon Verlag, 2018), 185-200.

34 Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, 1-13, quote at 1. Boyarin does not discuss early Christian thinkers’ views on sex and celibacy, see Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).

35 On rabbinic sexuality see also Michael L. Satlow, Tasting the Dish: Rabbinic Rhetorics of Sexuality (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995).

36 Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, 81ff.

37 Ibid., 23.

38 An early critique was raised by Judith Baskin in her “Review of Unheroic Conduct,” Criticism 41, no. 1 (1999): 124-128.

39 Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, 29.

40 Even before the appearance of Unheroic Conduct, the idea of the gentle husband or of the rabbi disapproving of wife-beating was challenged in Howard Adelman, “Wife-Beating Among Early Modern Italian Jews,” in Proceedings of the Eleventh World Congress of Jewish Studies, div. B, vol. 1 (World Union of Jewish Studies: Jerusalem, 1994): 135-142. See also Howard Adelman, “‘A Disgrace for All Jewish Men’: Preliminary Considerations for the Study of Wife-Beating in Jewish History,” Medieval Feminist Newsletter 21 (1996): 21-23. Boyarin’s notions were further criticized in Luciano Allegra, “Ne machos, ne mammolette. La mascolinità degli ebrei italiani,” Genesis. Rivista della società italiana delle storiche 2, no. 2 (2003): 125-155. More recently see Andreas Gotzmann, “Respectability Tested: Male Ideals, Sexuality, and Honor in Early Modern Ashkenazi Jewry,” in Jewish Maculinities: German Jews, Gender, and History, eds. Benjamin Maria Baader, Sharon Gillerman, and Paul Lerner (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2012), 23-49. It goes without saying that Boyarin’s schematic representation of European Christian culture requires correction as well.

41 Louise Mirrer, “Representing ‘Other’ Men: Muslims, Jews, and Masculine Ideals in Medieval Castilian Epic and Ballad,” in Medieval Masculinities, ed. Lees, 169-186; Steven Kruger, “Becoming Christian, Becoming Male?,” in Becoming Male in the Middle Ages, eds. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler (New York: Garland, 1997), 21-41.

42 Becky S. Friedman, “‘We Are No Soldiers’: Jewish Unmanliness in English Renaissance Drama,”58-82; 75.

43 Matthew Biberman, Masculinity, Anti-Semitism and Early Modern English Literature: From the Satanic to the Effeminate Jew (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004) argues that the notion of the hypersexual, satanic Jew emerged in English literature first, with notions of Jewish male effeminacy spreading only later.

44 Michael Satlow, “From Salve to Weapon: Torah Study, Masculinity, and the Babylonian Talmud,” in Religious Men and Masculine Identity in the Middle Ages, eds. P. H. Cullum and Katherine J. Lewis (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2013), 16-27; Rosen-Zvi, “The Rise and Fall,” 14.

45 Adelman, “Wife Beating,” Allegra, “Ne machos, ne mammolette,” and Gotzmann, “Respectability Tested.”

46 Contrary to Boyarin’s counterhegemonic reading of rabbinic masculinity, Michael Satlow claims that the rabbis’ understanding was not unique but shared essential traits with notions of manhood found among non-Jewish elites: Michael Satlow, “‘Try to Be a Man’: The Rabbinic Construction of Masculinity,” Harvard Theological Review 89, no. 1 (1996): 19-40; 39-40. The rabbis, in Satlow’s reading, understood Torah study as a supremely manly pursuit based around the male virtue of self-restraint. Torah study both requires the male virtue of self-restraint and reinforces it by combating the evil inclination (yetzer ha-ra) that continuously threatens men; in this reading, women are excluded from Torah study because they are believed to utterly lack the self-discipline necessary for it.

47 For a helpful introduction to clerical masculinities see Jennifer D. Thibodeaux, ed. Negotiating Clerical Identities: Priests, Monks, and Masculinity in the Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). For an attempt at theorizing this comparison see Derek Neal, “What Can Historians do with Clerical Masculinities? Lessons from Medieval Europe,” in ibid, 16-36. The earliest collection entirely devoted to masculinity and religion was P.H. Cullum and Katherine J. Lewis, Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004). See also P. H Cullum and Katherine J. Lewis, eds. Religious Men and Masculine Identity in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2013); Mathew Kuefler, The Making and Unmaking of a Saint: Hagiography and Memory in the Cult of Gerald of Aurillac (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014); Jennifer D. Thibodeaux, The Manly Priest: Clerical Celibacy, Masculinity, and Reform in England and Normandy, 1066–1300 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

48 JoAnn McNamara, “The Herrenfrage: The Restructuring of the Gender System, 1050-1150,” in Medieval Masculinities, ed. Lees, 3-29; 3.

49 Bücher argued that there was an excess of women in late medieval Germany, due to, among other reasons, the Church’s imposition of celibacy on the clergy, which led to a surplus of unmarried women. His essay is still influential today: Karl Bücher, “Die Frauenfrage im Mittelalter,” Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft 38, no. 2 (1882): 344-397.

50 McNamara, “The Herrenfrage,” in Medieval Masculinities, ed. Lees, 5.

51 On these English developments see Anne L. Barstow, Married Priests and the Reforming Papacy: The Eleventh Century Debates (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1982); Jennifer Thibodeaux, The Manly Priest: Clerical Celibacy, Masculinity, and Reform in England and Normandy, 1066-1300 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

52 Sergi Mainer, “Contrasting Kingly and Knightly Masculinities in Barbour’s Bruce,” in Nine Centuries of Man: Manhood and Masculinity in Scottish History, eds. Lynn Abrams and Elizabeth Ewan (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 122-141.

53 Eyal Levinson, Gender and Sexuality in Ashkenaz in the Middle Ages (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center, 2022) [Hebrew].

54 For an initial orientation on premodern youth culture, see Giovanni Levi and Jean-Claude Schmitt, eds., A History of Young People in the West, vol. 1 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1997); Konrad Eisenbichler, ed., The Premodern Teenager: Youth in Society, 1150–1650 (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2002).

55 Elliott Horowitz, “The Worlds of Jewish Youth in Europe, 1300-1800,” in A History of Young People in the West, eds. Levi and Schmitt, 83-119; Roni Weinstein, Marriage Rituals Italian Style: A Historical Anthropological Perspective on Early Modern Italian Jews (Leiden: Brill, 2004). For a kabbalistic take on early modern male youth culture see Roni Weinstein, Juvenile Sexuality, Kabbalah, and Catholic Reformation in Italy: Tiferet Bahurim by Pinhas Barukh ben Pelatiyah Monselice (Leiden: Brill, 2009). On Sephardi attitudes on adolescence see Julia R. Lieberman, “Adolescence and the Period of Apprenticeship among the Western Sephardim in the Seventeenth Century,” El Prezente: Studies in Sephardic Culture 4 (2010): 11-23.

56 On Jewish fathers in seventeenth-century Livorno, see Cristina Galasso, “Diventare adulti, diventare padri. Paternità e patria potestà nella comunità ebraica di Livorno (secolo XVII),” in Pater Familias,ed. Angiolina Arru (Rome: Biblink, 2002), 101-121. On medieval Ashkenazi fatherhood see now Eyal Levinson, “Situated Fathering in Medieval Ashkenaz,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 28 (2021): 278-296.

57 The literature on fatherhood is medieval and early modern Europe is enormous. For a helpful overview see Marco Cavina, Il padre spodestato. L’autorità paterna dall’antichità ad oggi (Bari: Laterza, 2007). On medieval fatherhood, see Rachel Moss, Fatherhood and its Representations in Middle English Texts (Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 2013); Philip Grace, Affectionate Authorities: Fathers and Fatherly Roles in Late Medieval Basel (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2015). On early modern patria potestas in Italian lands, Daniela Frigo, Il padre di famiglia. Governo della casa e governo civile nella tradizione dell’“economica” tra Cinque e Seicento (Rome: Bulzoni, 1987); Angiolina Arru, ed., Pater Familias (Rome: Biblink, 2002). For German and Swiss lands, see the classic study by Steven Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985). On eighteenth-century changes in France, Julie Doyon, “L’autorité paternelle dans la culture pénale Parisienne au siècle des Lumières,” in Paris et ses peuples au xviiie siècle, eds. Pascal Bastien and Simon Macdonald (Paris: Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2020), 221-235; Julie Doyon, “Le père dénaturé au siècle des Lumières,” Annales de démographie historique 2 (2009): 143-165.

58 Julie Hardwick, The Practice of Patriarchy: Gender and the Politics of Household Authority in Early Modern France (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1998). See also John Tosh, “Current Issues in the History of Masculinity,” in La costruzione dell’identità maschile nell’età moderna e contemporanea, ed. Angiolina Arru (Rome: Biblink, 2001), 63-78.

59 On the formative role of apprenticeship see Maarten Prak and Patrick Wallis, eds., Apprenticeship in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020). For the importance of guild culture as a conduit of masculinity, Christina M. Fitzgerald, The Drama of Masculinity and Medieval English Guild Culture (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

60 On early modern bachelors, Sandra Cavallo, “Bachelorhood and Masculinity in Renaissance and Early Modern Italy,” European History Quarterly 38, no. 3 (2008): 375-397.

61 On medieval merchant masculinities see Juliann Vitullo and Diane Wolfthal, “Trading Values: Negotiating Masculinity in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe,” in Money, Morality, and Culture in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, eds. Juliann Vitullo and Diane Wolfthal (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010), 155-196. For the early modern period: John Smail, “Coming of Age in Trade: Masculinity and Commerce in Eighteenth-Century England,” in The Self-Perception of Early Modern Capitalists, eds. Margaret C. Jacob and Catherine Secretan (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2008), 229-252; Martha Howell, “Merchant Masculinity in Early Modern Northern Europe,” Cultural and Social History 18, no. 3 (2021): 275-296.

62 Francesca Bregoli, “‘Your Father’s Interests’: The Business of Kinship in a Trans-Mediterranean Jewish Merchant Family, 1776–1790,” Jewish Quarterly Review 108, no. 2 (2018): 194-224.

63 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 3 vols. (New York: Random House, 1978). Foucault left a fourth volume unfinished. Scholars of Jewish thought and philosophy have devoted particular attention to menstruation, and the laws and ethics of marital sex, with particular attention to Abraham ibn David’s Ba‘ale ha-nefesh (twelfth century) and to the anonymous thirteenth-century kabbalistic work Iggeret ha-Kodesh. For an initial orientation in this vast literature see Monford Harris, “Marriage as Metaphysics: A Study of the Iggereth ha-Kodesh,” Hebrew Union College Annual 33 (1962): 197-220; Fred Rosner, Sex Ethics in the Writings of Moses Maimonides (New York: Bloch, 1974); Ron Barkaï, Les infortunes de Dinah: Le livre de la generation: La gynécologie juive au Moyen Âge (Paris: Cerf, 1991); Jeremy Cohen, “Rationales for Conjugal Sex in RaABaD’s Ba‘alei ha-nefesh,” Jewish History 6 (1992): 65-78; Charles Mopsik, Lettre sur la sainteté: La relation entre l’homme avec sa femme (Lagrasse: Verdier, 1993); Evyatar Marienberg, Niddah: Lorsque les juifs conceptualisent la menstruation (Paris: Belles Lettres, 2003); Sharon Faye Koren, Forsaken: The Menstruant in Medieval Jewish Mysticism (Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2011).

64 Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990); Patricia Simons, The Sex of Men in Premodern Europe: A Cultural History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011). But along with the “one-sex” model posited by Laqueur, premodern people were cognizant of sex ambiguity: Kathleen Long, Hermaphrodites in Renaissance Europe (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006); Irina Metzler, “Hermaphroditism in the Western Middle Ages: Physicians, Lawyers and the Intersexed Person,” in Bodies of Knowledge: Cultural Interpretations of Illness and Medicine in Medieval Europe, eds. Sally Crawford and Christina Lee (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2010), 27-39; Leah DeVun, “Erecting Sex: Hermaphrodites and the Medieval Science of Surgery,” Osiris 30 (2015): 17-37.

65 Dyan Elliott, Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); Jacqueline Murray, “‘The Law of Sin that Is in My Members’: The Problem of Male Embodiment,” in Gender and Holiness: Men, Women, and Saints in Late Medieval Europe, eds. Samantha J. E. Riches and Sarah Salih (New York: Routledge, 2002), 9-22.

66 Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987); Caroline Walker Bynum,Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Zone Books, 1991). See also Ulrike Wiethaus, ed., Maps of Flesh and Light: The Religious Experience of Medieval Women Mystics (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1993).

67 For classic views on these themes see Lawrence Fine, “Purifying the Body in the Name of the Soul: The Problem of the Body in Sixteenth-Century Kabbalah,” in People of the Body: Jews and Judaism from an Embodied Perspective, ed. Howard Eilberg-Schwartz (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 117-142; Yehuda Liebes, “Zohar ve-Eros,” Alpaim 9 (1994): 67-119; Moshe Idel, Kabbalah and Eros (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005); Charles Mopsik, Sex of the Soul: The Vicissitudes of Sexual Difference in Kabbalah, ed. Daniel Abrams (Los Angeles: Cherub Press, 2005); Elliot R. Wolfson, Language, Eros, Being: Kabbalistic Hermeneutics and Poetic Imagination (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005). For kabbalistic views of femininity, see now Moshe Idel, The Privileged Divine Feminine in Kabbalah (Berlin - Boston: De Gruyter, 2019).

68 Avinoam Stillman, “On Kabbalah and ‘Wasted Seed’ in Seventeenth-Century Poland: A Chapter in the History of the Male Jewish Body,” 83-111; 108.

69 Michael Rocke, Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence (New York - Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 10-11.

70 Alan Bray, The Friend (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

71 Michael Goodich, The Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Later Medieval Period (Santa Barbara, CA: Ross-Erikson, 1979).

72 Rocke, Forbidden Friendships.

73 Historians have mined criminal and inquisitorial records to investigate its meanings and ramifications: Guido Ruggiero, Boundaries of Eros: Sex, Crime, and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985);Tom Betteridge, ed., Sodomy in Early Modern Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002); Federico Garza Carvajal, Butterflies Will Burn: Prosecuting Sodomites in Early Modern Spain and Mexico (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003); Cristian Berco, Sexual Hierarchies, Public Status: Men, Sodomy and Society in Spain’s Golden Age (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007); Umberto Grassi, LʼOffitio sopra l’Onestà: il controllo della sodomia nella Lucca del Cinquecento (Milan: Mimesis, 2014); Vincenzo Lavenia, Un'eresia indicibile: inquisizione e crimini contro natura in età moderna (Bologna: EDB, 2015). For an overview influenced by the history of emotions, see now Umberto Grassi, Sodoma: persecuzioni, affetti, pratiche sociali (secoli V-XVIII) (Rome: Carocci, 2019).

74 Alan Bray, “Homosexuality and the Signs of Male Friendship in Elizabethan England,” History Workshop Journal (1990): 1-19.

75 Rocke, Forbidden Friendships; Umberto Grassi, “Shame and Boastfulness in Early Modern Italy: Showing Off Masculinity and Exposing Sexual Submission in Class and Age Competitions,” in Gender and Status Competition in Pre-Modern Societies, eds. Martha Bayless, Jonas Lilequist, and Lewis Webb (Turnhout: Brepols, 2021), 109-124.

76 Rocke, Forbidden Friendships.

77 For a late fifteenth-century case with a very different outcome, see Tamar Herzig, A Convert’s Tale: Art, Crime, and Jewish Apostasy in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019), 59-69.

78 Carrigan, Connell, and Lee, “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity,” 552.

Francesca Bregoli holds the Joseph and Oro Halegua Chair in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies and is Associate Professor of History at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her research focuses on eighteenth-century Italian and Sephardic Jewish history. She is the author of “Mediterranean Enlightenment: Livornese Jews, Tuscan Culture, and Eighteenth-Century Reform” (Stanford University Press, 2014) and co-editor of “Connecting Histories: Jews and Their Others in Early Modern Europe” (Penn Press, 2019) and “Italian Jewish Networks from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Centuries: Bridging Europe and the Mediterranean” (Palgrave, 2018). Her current project, influenced by the history of the family and the history of emotions, investigates overlaps between affective and business ties in transregional Jewish merchant families.

  How to quote this article:
Francesca Bregoli, “Introduction,” in “Jewish Masculinities, 1200-1800,” ed. Francesca Bregoli, Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of the Fondazione CDEC 24, no. 2 (2023), DOI: 10.48248/issn.2037-741X/14385