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  • Writer's pictureNetta Schramm נטע שרם

Sound Beliefs Narrative and Performance in the works of Y. Leibowitz, O. Yosef, and I. Greenberg

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

Collectif Judéité(s) seminar, March 2nd, 2022.


Imagine editing a book titled The Complete Works of Nietzsche. Would you include in it a laundry bill you found in one of his notebooks? Nietzsche's bill might interest a meticulous historian but would not be considered worthy of philosophical contemplation. This question, presented by Michel Foucault, calls for greater flexibility in what we consider worthy of interpretation. The humanities favour books, manuscripts, or diaries, believing that “fleeting words” do not have scholarly value. If in the past, oral invocations were “immediately consumed and forgotten,” and therefore inaccessible for research. Technological advancements have overcome the ephemerality of speech with recordings. Schramm's project argues for the inclusion of texts stored in audio or audio-visual formats in the study of modern Jewish thought. She asks what do oral texts add to our understanding of written works of theology or philosophy using performance theory and narratology. She focuses on Irving Greenberg, Yeshayahu Leibowitz and Ovadia Yosef not only because they are three 20th century Orthodox leaders, but because of their commitment to public speaking. Simply put, Schramm not only reads Greenberg, Yosef, and Leibowitz, she also watches and listens to them.

The presentation will, first, compare the content of oral and written works. Then Schramm will describe their unique storytelling and stylization and reveal their distinct narrative perspectives: omniscient, external, and internal. Yosef performs the omniscient narrator who ‘knows’ the world in its entirety. Leibowitz is an external narrator because he engages in a scientific-like discourse. Greenberg frames his narrative as an internal and subjective discourse. The presentation then discuss mood: Yosef’s parody, Leibowitz’s irony, and Greenberg’s satire. Finally, she will show how insights about style and mood of oral texts reshape the accepted scholarly understanding of Yosef’s Sephardi revivalist project, Leibowitz’ iconoclastic political theology and Greenberg’s post-modern pluralism.


Netta Schramm is an advanced Ph.D. candidate focused on modern Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Netta also conducted her doctoral research as a Minvera Fellow at Ludwig Maximillians Universität in Munich. She uses performance theory and narratology to read audio-visual archival materials of modern and contemporary Jewish thinkers. Previously she has focused on a Zionist adaptation of the Tsene U'rene, the hermeneutics of the Israeli television show The Jews are Coming, and the narrative structure of BBC audio drama Miriam and Youssef. Netta has published her research in Jewish Film and New Media (2021), PaRDeS (2019), and Muza (2017) and annotated a translation published in CCAR (2019). She presented her work at international conferences, including Harvard University, the World Congress of Jewish Studies, two AJS conferences, and more. Netta holds a bachelor's degree in Physics and a Master's degree in Jewish Thought. Her MA thesis was awarded the Goren prize for Jewish renewal studies.


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