“Read Lucian!” Menippean Satire and the Literary World of the Babylonian Talmud

in Socrates & the Fat Rabbis

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780226069166
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226069180 | DOI:
“Read Lucian!” Menippean Satire and the Literary World of the Babylonian Talmud

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If the Talmud is an “organic whole,” it will look like a very rotund rabbi, with various and very large organs sticking out crudely—almost obscenely—sometimes, as organic perhaps as a fish-horse or a goat-stag, to quote Lucian on his own works. However dominant the dialectical sugya is in the Talmud and however large it looms in the history of talmudic reception, it is by no means the entire matter of the Talmud. This chapter offers a reading of the Talmud as Menippean satire in which both languages, the language of Torah and the language of the grotesque, are brought into contact with one another with deep purpose. Closely related to the Menippean satire in Mikhail Bakhtin's account is the novel, so another way of approaching the question of the antithetical materials in the Bavli is to think of the Talmud as a novel, as presented by Bakhtin.

Keywords: Talmud; Menippean satire; novel; Mikhail Bakhtin; Bavli; Torah; grotesque; Lucian; rabbi

Chapter.  20800 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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