In my Ph.D. dissertation (submission September 2002) I will present an analysis of Sippurey Ma'asiyot by R. Nahman of Bratslav based on a close reading of all of the thirteen tales. As far as I know a close reading of all thirteen tales has not yet been undertaken. Commentaries – often biographical and/or allegorical - do exist but not any readings that present an analysis with an argumentation for the interpretations of all of the tales. However, I am convinced that an analysis of all thirteen tales together will be rewarding. With a focus on the literary imagery and its intertextual and contextual connotations; a focus on the narrative structures; and an awareness of R. Nahman's use of gender I hope to offer insights into the dynamics of the theological content and function of the tales and thereby add observations to the existing scholarship on R. Nahman; and to participate in a dialogue with the larger field of the study of religion where the phenomenon "holy texts" is dealt with from various perspectives.
The observation, which has fascinated me the most so far, is that R. Nahman by activating an enormous amount of religious intertextual connotations through his use of tanakhic, talmudic and mystical imagery seems to be 'launching' an intertextual bombardment of his listener/reader to make him/her engage in the process of redemption which is being described in the tales. This over-stimulation through imagery chosen from authoritative texts where God's perspective is disseminated by prophets, talmudic or mystical heroes, makes R. Nahman succeed in creating a kind of liminal space. The liminal space displays a mythical reality, inside which every listener/reader, whether zaddik or average member of the Hasidic community, is offered to enter and to take part in what characterises any liminal room, i.e. the feeling of communion. The feeling of communion with R. Nahman, the previous religious heroes, be it prophets or sages, and with fellow listeners/readers leads to the feeling of a common responsibility for redemption. However, the communal feeling exceeds a relationship with this-worldly characters. The tales seem to be told from the perspective of Ayin. The tales relate different ways of achieving redemption, of performing the will of God. This makes the tales a literary 'pipeline' through which Ayin/God can be directly accessed and where the transcendental (sic!) perspectives can be transferred to the listener/reader. In other words, the tales offer every listener/reader a pretaste of the world-to-come where the perspectives of Ayin will dominate. Furthermore, the pretaste of the world-to-come offers the liminal experience of seeing oneself in the same communion, where Ayin/God participates, which makes the tales and the experience mystical. According to this observation R. Nahman is performing the function of a messenger, of a prophet who advocates for the necessity of redemption who, however, never describes what the world-to-come will be like. In this way he seems to disqualify himself as the actual redeemer, which, along with the concept of the tales as literary liminal spaces, would add a somewhat different understanding of R. Nahman to the existing scholarship.
"Et litteraert, koensreflekteret forsoeg paa at forstaa kejserens datter i Rabbi Nahman fra Bratslavs 'The King and the Emperor'", Journal of Scandinavian Jewish Studies, Lund, 1998. Translation of title: "A literary, gender-focussed attempt to understand the emperor's daughter in 'The King and the Emperor' by Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav".
"Doetre, skoeger og moedre i Jahves haender", Dansk Teologisk Tidsskrift, Anis, Copenhagen, 2000. Translation of title: "Daughters, harlots and mothers in the hands of God" (Functional analysis of female imagery in the Book of Isaiah).
The Supervision team for my Ph.D. consists of Lkt. Peter Steensgaard Paludan, the University of Aarhus; Prof. Kirsten Nielsen, the University of Aarhus; Prof. Rachel Elior, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Prof. Arthur Green, Brandeis University.
I am a board member of The Society for Scandinavian Jewish Studies, which arranges international congresses and publishes the annual Nordisk Judaistik - Journal of Scandinavian Jewish Studies; and of KRAKA – group at the University of Aarhus, Denmark working on cultural meetings and how they effect religious identities and identification processes.
Studies abroad at New York University in 1995/96 (supervised by Prof. Elliot W. Wolfson) and p.t. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2001) (supervised by Prof. Rachel Elior).
Marianne Schleicher, The Department of the Study of Religion, The University of Aarhus, Taasingegade 3, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark, E-mail (home): email@example.com