Myth Reading Group
Thursday 19 May
12.00-1.30pm in Room 3.318
This week Jeremy Solnick introduces a discussion of the afterlife of Lilith.
In Jewish mythology Lilith is Adam’s wayward first wife, an independent spirit who refused to play second fiddle to Adam and abandoned her consort, forcing God to create Eve. References can be found to her in folk-lore as the wife of Satan and the malign spirit who haunts the dreams of young men, and steals the lives of new-born babies. Artists and poets have been fascinated by her. She often appears as the serpent with a woman’s face in pictures of the Temptation of Eve; Keats’s ‘Lamia’ is arguably a Lilith incarnation and several ‘Lilith’ pictures were painted by adherents of the pre-Raphaelite group including Rossetti.
In the session, we will look at the biblical and possible pre-biblical origins of the Lilith figure and the way the myths around her developed in the medieval period through rabbinic and exegetical texts. We will discuss her influence on the thinking of the Italian writer and holocaust witness Primo Levi and her current manifestation as something of a feminist icon.
Primo Levi, “Lilith”, in Primo Levi: Collected Poems, trans. by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann (London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1988), p. 26.
Primo Levi, “Lilith”, in Moments of Reprieve, trans. Ruth Feldman (London: Abacus, 1987), pp. 37-45.
Poster and texts: