Rabbinic Body Language: Non-Verbal Communication in Palestinian Rabbinic Literature of Late Antiquity
Catherine Hezser, University of London
This study constitutes the first comprehensive examination of rabbinic body language represented in Palestinian rabbinic sources of late antiquity. Catherine Hezser examines rabbis’ appearance and demeanor, spatial movement, gestures, and facial expressions on the basis of literary and social-anthropological methods and theories. She discusses the various forms of rabbis’ non-verbal communication in the context of Graeco-Roman and ancient Christian literary sources and in connection with the material culture of Roman and early Byzantine Palestine. Catherine Hezser convincingly shows that in rabbinic literature body language serves as an important means of rabbis’ self-fashioning. Rabbinic texts create the image of a particularly Jewish type of intellectual who functioned and competed for adherents within the highly visual and body-conscious environment of late antiquity.