Elizabeth Shanks Alexander


Gibson Hall, S-234


  • PhD (Judaic Studies), Yale University
  • MPhil (Judaic Studies), Yale University
  • MA (Judaic Studies), Yale University
  • BA (Religion), Haverford College
  • Visiting Student, Hebrew University

Research Interests

My research focuses on the classic texts of rabbinic Judaism (midrash, Mishnah and Talmud).  My most pressing questions have to do with how rabbinic literature functions as literature, and how it conveys meaning.  Orality theory has taught me to see rabbinic texts as moments in a larger conversation and my work often tries to reconstruct the thinking that drives the conversation.  I also make use of literary theory to discern patterns in the texts that point towards themes and tropes.  I am particularly drawn towards theological and ethical topics in rabbinic literature.  I have also written a lot about gender.


  • RELJ 2030 Introduction to the Judaism
  • RELJ 3350 Ethics and Judaism
  • RELJ 3430 Women in Judaism
  • RELJ 383/3830 Introduction to Talmud
  • RELG 4500 Majors Seminar: Scripture
  • RELG 4800 Research Methods in Religious Studies
  • RELJ 5050 Judaism in Antiquity
  • RELJ 5100 Ethics and Theology of the Rabbis
  • RELJ 5105 Religion and Culture of the Rabbis
  • RELJ 5200 Mishnah Seminar
  • RELJ 5950 Midrash Seminar

Selected Publications

  • Gender and Timebound Commandments in Judaism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Finalist for the 2013 National Jewish Book Award.
  • Transmitting Mishnah: The Shaping Influence of Oral Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006 (Paperback 2009).
  • Religious Studies and Rabbinics. Co-edited with Beth Berkowitz. Routledge (forthcoming).
  • “When Cultural Assumptions about Texts and Reading and Logic Fail: Teaching Talmud as Liberal Arts.” In Learning How to Read Talmud: What It Looks Like and How It Happens, edited by Marjorie Lehman and Jane Kanarek (forthcoming, 7000 words).
  • “Principles for Negotiating Biblical Androcentrism among Ancient Jews: Damascus Document and Mekhilta of R. Ishmael.” In Rabbis and Other Jews, edited by Christine Hayes, Tzvi Novick, Michal Bar-Asher Siegal (forthcoming, 8000 words).
  • Tractate “Shevuot.” In the New Oxford Mishnah, edited by Shaye Cohen, Hayim Lapin, and Robert Goldenberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming). 
  • “When the Dead Primp: Talmudic Gender as Theological Prompt.” Nashim 28 (Spring 2015): 120–33.
  • “Ritual on the Threshold: Mezuzah and the Crafting of Domestic and Civic Space.” Jewish Social Studies 20, no. 3 (Spring/Summer 2015): 100–130.

Selected Awards and Grants 

  • Summers 2014, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2003, 2002, 2000: University of Virginia, Summer Faculty Research Grant
  • 2013: Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award: Gender and Timebound Commandments in Judaism (Cambridge UP, 2013)
  • 2012–2013: Clay Foundation, Grant for “Religious Studies and Rabbinics,” served as primary grant writer ($7800)
  • 2012–2013: Fellow of the Institute for the Humanities and Global Cultures, University of Virginia
  • Summer 2012: John T. Casteen III Faculty Fellowship in Ethics, Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life at the University of Virginia
  • Spring 2012: Page-Barbour and Richards Lectures Fund, Grant for “Religious Studies and Rabbinics,” served as primary grant writer ($15,000)
  • 2010–2011: University of Virginia, Sesquicentennial Research Fellowship