In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language

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NYU Press, 2004 - Foreign Language Study - 263 pages
8 Reviews

Gulf War Syndrome: Is It a Real Disease? asks a recent headline in the New York Times. This question—are certain diseases real?—lies at the heart of a simmering controversy in the United States, a debate that has raged, in different contexts, for centuries. In the early nineteenth century, the air of European cities, polluted by open sewers and industrial waste, was generally thought to be the source of infection and disease. Thus the term miasma—literally deathlike air—came into popular use, only to be later dismissed as medically unsound by Louis Pasteur.

While controversy has long swirled in the United States around such illnesses as chronic fatigue syndrome and Epstein-Barr virus, no disorder has been more aggressively contested than environmental illness, a disease whose symptoms are distinguished by an extreme, debilitating reaction to a seemingly ordinary environment. The environmentally ill range from those who have adverse reactions to strong perfumes or colognes to others who are so sensitive to chemicals of any kind that they must retreat entirely from the modern world.

Bodies in Protest does not seek to answer the question of whether or not chemical sensitivity is physiological or psychological, rather, it reveals how ordinary people borrow the expert language of medicine to construct lay accounts of their misery. The environmentally ill are not only explaining their bodies to themselves, however, they are also influencing public policies and laws to accommodate the existence of these mysterious illnesses. They have created literally a new body that professional medicine refuses to acknowledge and one that is becoming a popular model for rethinking conventional boundaries between the safe and the dangerous.

Having interviewed dozens of the environmentally ill, the authors here recount how these people come to acknowledge and define their disease, and themselves, in a suddenly unlivable world that often stigmatizes them as psychologically unstable. Bodies in Protest is the dramatic story of human bodies that no longer behave in a manner modern medicine can predict and control.


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Review: In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language

User Review  - Michael Doyle - Goodreads

An incredibly well-researched book that lays out the history of the Hebrew language from antiquity to today, told through the lens of the invention, use of, and resuscitation of the use of vowels in ... Read full review

Review: In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language

User Review  - Donna - Goodreads

If read with an eye for gleaning details but not necessarily the broader picture, this is a worthwhile read. Sections were very illuminating, but the emphasis on not actually being able to define G*d ... Read full review


Magic Letters and the Name of God
The Masoretes
The Dead Sea Scrolls
Dialects in the Bible
PostBiblical Hebrew
Keep Your Voice from Weeping
A More about the Rules of the Game
B Further Reading
About the Author

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About the author (2004)

Joel M. Hoffman lectures around the country, and teaches classes on ancient Hebrew and on translation at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City.

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