Gwynn Kessler

Gwynn Kessler

Visiting Associate Professor of Women's Studies and Rabbinics
WSRP Research Associate 2016–17

Home institution

Swarthmore College

Research project

The Crooked and the Straight: Queer Theory and Rabbinic Literature


Gwynn Kessler received her PhD in Rabbinics, with a specialization in midrash, from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2001. She has taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Her research focuses on rabbinic interpretation of Scripture, or midrash, and more specifically on rabbinic theology and rabbinic constructions of gender and identity.

Dr. Kessler has published Conceiving Israel: The Fetus in Rabbinic Narratives (UPenn Press, July 2009); “Parashat Vayera: Looking Back to Look Forward” in Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible (NYU Press, 2009); “’Famous’ Fetuses in Rabbinic Narratives” in Imagining the Fetus: The Unborn in Myth, Religion, and Culture (Oxford University Press, 2009); “Bodies in Motion: Preliminary Notes on Queer Theory and Rabbinic Literature” in Mapping Gender in Ancient Religious Discourse (Brill, 2006); “Let’s Cross That Body When We Get To It: Gender and Ethnicity in Rabbinic Literature” (JAAR 73/2: 329-59).

While at HDS she will be working on a book-length projected entitled, “The Crooked and the Straight: Queer Theory and Rabbinic Literature,” which brings current theories about gender and the body together with rabbinic traditions. It seeks to expose the complexity of constructions of gender and the body in late antiquity while attending to both the overlaps as well as divergences between constructions of gender and the body then and now.

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