Congratulations to Maya Barzilai, Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew and Jewish Culture at the University of Michigan, for winning the 2017 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the category of Jewish Literature and Linguistics for her book Golem: Modern Wars and Their Monsters, published in October of 2016.

The awards are granted by the Association for Jewish Studies and is supported by the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. This year, there were four categories and over 100 submissions. Each category was judged by a committee of expert scholars in their field. The recipients will receive the awards during the 49th Annual AJS Conference in Washington, DC on Sunday December 17, 2017.

Her book also received Honorable Mention in the Salo Wittmayer Baron Book Prize earlier this year.

Barzilai's book is a comparative study of films, theatrical productions, literary texts, and comics that reconsider the golem narrative in the context of twentieth-century mass warfare. She argues for the golem's modern resignification as a metaphor for war technologies and their devastating impact on human life. 

In the Department of Middle East Studies, she teaches comparative courses on visual culture such as "Screening Jewish Cultures" and "The Jewish Graphic Novel" as well as advanced Hebrew culture classes and graduate seminars on translation studies and language philosophy. 


Golem: Modern Wars and Their Monsters

(New York University Press)

In the 1910s and 1920s, a “golem cult” swept across Europe and the U.S., later surfacing in Israel. Why did this story of a powerful clay monster molded and animated by a rabbi to protect his community become so popular and pervasive? The golem has appeared in a remarkable range of popular media: from the Yiddish theater to American comic books, from German silent film to Quentin Tarantino movies. This book showcases how the golem was remolded, throughout the war-torn twentieth century, as a muscular protector, injured combatant, and even murderous avenger. This evolution of the golem narrative is made comprehensible by, and also helps us to better understand, one of the defining aspects of the last one hundred years: mass warfare and its ancillary technologies.