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Title: "מעלות תאומיות שאינן מתאימות" "Improper twins" : the ambivalent "Other Side" in the Zohar and kabbalistic tradition
Author: Berman, N. A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5358 269X
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores the portrayals of the demonic, the Sitra Aḥra, the “Other Side,” in the Zohar and closely related texts. Such portrayals form a key theme in the Zohar, a collection of 13th century mystical, mythological, and homiletical texts, written in Spain. In proposing new approaches to this theme, the thesis also advances new ways of understanding the work’s literary virtuosity and ontological innovativeness. At the rhetorical level, the thesis focuses on close readings, attending to the distinctive ways Zoharic texts employ “schemes” and “tropes” (Quintilian) in a manner that constructs and manages ambivalence about the divine/demonic relationship. This methodology grows out of a rejection of past scholarly approaches, which tended to read such texts as reflective of large-scale cultural-historical phenomena, such as the putative divide between Gnosticism and Neoplatonism. Such approaches bypass the distinctiveness of Zoharic writing, in which all precursor texts, be they scriptural, rabbinic, or theological, become transformed into elements of novel literary works. At the ontological level, the thesis rejects the unreflective notions of “catharsis” that have often guided past Zohar scholarship’s understandings of the relationship between the divine and the demonic. The inadequacy of such notions appears particularly when Zoharic texts’ literary specificities are foregrounded. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory, the thesis illuminates the phenomenon that Zoharic texts continually portray the recurrent emergence, collapse, and re-consolidation of divine subjects and structures as inextricably bound up with that of demonic subjects and structures. The approach taken by the thesis highlights the centrality of “abjection” (Kristeva) for the emergence of differentiated subjects, human or divine. Reading the Zohar in this way facilitates a comprehensive embrace of the distinctiveness of its textuality and an explication of its vision of the ways the differentiation of divine and human subjects from their “Others” is both indispensable and yet ultimately impossible.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available