Queer Expectations

A Genealogy of Jewish Women's Poetry

By Zohar Weiman-Kelman

Subjects: Jewish Studies, Literary Criticism, Women's Studies, Gender Studies, Poetry
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Literature and Culture
Hardcover : 9781438472232, 232 pages, December 2018
Paperback : 9781438472225, 232 pages, July 2019

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Table of contents


Introduction: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting

1. Queer Lines: Adrienne Rich and Kadya Molodowsky

2. Vanished Hellas and Hebraic Pain: Emma Lazarus and Anna Margolin

3. Waiting in Vain: Leah Goldberg and Anna Margolin

4. Heys Haunting: Poetics of Lesbian History

5. Community across Discontinuity

6. Translating Generations: Irena Klepfisz

Coda: Queering the Present of Jewish Literary History


Examines how Jewish women have used poetry to challenge their historical limitations while rewriting their potential futures.


Jewish women have had a fraught relationship with history, struggling for inclusion while resisting their limited role as (re)producers of the future. In Queer Expectations, Zohar Weiman-Kelman shows how Jewish women writers turned to poetry to write new histories, developing "queer expectancy" as a conceptual tool for understanding how literary texts can both invoke and resist what came before. Bringing together Jewish women's poetry from the late nineteenth century, the interwar period, and the 1970s and 1980s, Weiman-Kelman takes readers on a boundary-crossing journey through works in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew, setting up encounters between writers of different generations, locations, and languages. Queer Expectations highlights genealogical lines of continuity drawn by authors as diverse as Emma Lazarus, Kadya Molodowsky, Leah Goldberg, Anna Margolin, Irena Klepfisz, and Adrienne Rich. These poets push back against heteronormative imperatives of biological reproduction and inheritance, opting instead for connections that twist traditional models of gender and history. Looking backward in queer ways enables new histories to emerge, intervenes in a troubled present, and gives hope for unexpected futures.

Zohar Weiman-Kelman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.


"…the book contributes to research in women literary studies and is a valid example of applying queer theory. " — Journal of Modern Jewish Studies

"…more bold and far-reaching in its claims and aims than many of its precursors … Through her construction of a cross-temporal and cross-linguistic genealogy of Jewish women's poetry, Weiman-Kelman collapses the boundaries between theory and praxis in her own work, showing how scholarship can be a locus for political change. " — In Geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies

"Queer Expectations is one of the most original books of literary analysis, historiography, biography, and queer theory I have ever read. Its originality and its methodology turn traditional ways of thinking about literary analysis, questions of influence, and what queer can mean upside down. This is a truly brilliant book. " — Evelyn Torton Beck, editor of Nice Jewish Girls: A Lesbian Anthology, Revised and Updated Edition