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Shoshana Olidort


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Feminist and Queer Theory
women's poetry
Jewish Studies
Gender and Sexuality
poetry and poetics

Shoshana Olidort

Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature.
Mellon Dissertation Fellow, 2019-2020.
Dissertation: Performing Intersectional Identities: Four Jewish Women Poets in the 20th Century
This dissertation explores the relationship between language and identity and argues that modern poetry can be a mode of identity performance, particularly for those on the margins. My research considers how writing from the margins opens up new possibilities for poetic innovation and the articulation of a self in the world, and how modern poetry in particular make possible subversive identity formations. My project focuses on four Jewish women poets writing in Hebrew and English in the 20th century—Gertrude Stein, Esther Raab, Adrienne Rich and Zelda Schneursohn—and considers things like “surface” and “grammar” as well as “prayer” and “politics,” to show how from their respective positions at the intersection of multiple margins— as women and Jews, some of them queer, some immigrants—these writers manipulate poetic form to assert alternative identities. Applying theories of language and performativity to the practice of poetry as exercised by a sample set of seemingly unrelated poets, my feminist, Jewish reading puts these disparate poets in conversation with each other to reveal a surprising web of interconnections manifest in, among other things, the prioritization of what poetry does rather than what it means, the preoccupation with freeing language from its patriarchal origins, and the embrace of a minimalist aesthetic. Whereas critics have tended to read literature produced by Jewish women as reacting to a traditionally male canon, vying for acceptance or protesting exclusion, I argue that these writers create a feminist poetics and an alternative canon.


B.A., Columbia University

Other Information

In addition to her research and scholarship, Shoshana translates from Yiddish and Hebrew, and writes for a wide range of publications outside of the academy. Her work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, The Paris Review Daily, The Los Angeles Review of Books and The Jewish Review of Books, among other publications.  She is also the web editor for the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation.
Shoshana's teaching experience at Stanford includes classes in Jewish studies, literature, and feminist poetry. She has also volunteered at the Redwood City Jail through the Stanford Prison Education Project, where she co-taught a course on Myths and Misconceptions.