Between the Lines: The Object of Jewish Literature

By :  Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary Posted On Dec 5, 2022 / 5783 | Author Conversations: Between the Lines Library Programs


JTS Professor Barbara E. Mann discusses her latest book, The Object of Jewish Literature, a history of modern Jewish literature that explores our enduring attachment to the book as an object. With the rise of digital media, the “death of the book” has been widely discussed. But the physical object of the book persists. Here, through the lens of materiality and objects, Barbara E. Mann tells a history of modern Jewish literature, from novels and poetry to graphic novels and artists’ books. Bringing contemporary work on secularism and design in conversation with literary history, she offers a new and distinctive frame for understanding how literary genres emerge. The long 20th century, a period of tremendous physical upheaval and geographic movement, witnessed the production of a multilingual canon of writing by Jewish authors. Literature’s objecthood is felt not only in the physical qualities of books—bindings, covers, typography, illustrations—but also through the ways in which materiality itself became a practical foundation for literary expression.

About Barbara E. Mann

Barbara E. Mann is professor of cultural studies and Hebrew Literature and the Chana Kekst Professor of Jewish Literature at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Her areas of expertise include Israeli and Jewish literature, cultural studies, modern poetry, critical theory and urban studies, literary modernism, and the fine arts.

Dr. Mann is the author of Space and Place in Jewish Studies and A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space, in addition to numerous scholarly articles. She is editor emerita of Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History. Dr. Mann has lectured and presented scholarly papers at seminars and conferences in the United States, Israel, and Europe, and has been awarded numerous honors for her work. From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the faculty at Princeton University, where she also served as a faculty fellow in the Center for the Study of Religion. 


“A bold, often surprising, and luminous study that enhances our perception.”
—Ranen Omer-Sherman, University of Louisville

“Original and finely instructive, this work leads us to see something new and illuminating about the very modality of literature.”
—Robert Alter, author of The Art of Biblical Narrative