Lesleigh Cushing

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Lesleigh Cushing

Provost and Dean of the Faculty; Murray W. and Mildred K. Finard Professor in Jewish Studies, and Professor of Religion

Department/Office Information

Dean of the Faculty/Provost, Jewish Studies
104 McGregory Hall

These days, my research projects fall into three overlapping categories: the literariness of the (Hebrew) Bible, the literary afterlife of the Bible, and the use of the Bible in contemporary culture.

Recent examples of my exploration of the literariness of the Hebrew Bible include a consideration of the interplay ritual and memory in the Book of Exodus (published in Religion and Literature) and an analysis of the intertextual dimensions in the Genesis stories of Dinah (Gen. 34) and Tamar (Gen. 38).

My current work on the literary afterlife of the Bible is most evident inThe Bible in the American Short Story, a collaboration with Peter S. Hawkins of Yale Divinity School, that will be part of Bloomsbury's New Directions in Religion and Literature series.  A 2016 article on Midrash in contemporary Jewish American literature also explores the return to and reuse of the Bible in contemporary literature.

I also have a second book project underway, which is concerned with the Bible in the American public sphere. Reading the Bible from the Left looks at the ways the Bible has been used in American public and political discourse, with a view to the way it has been read in debates about abortion, homosexuality, the environment, capital punishment, marriage, poverty, and euthanasia. 

BA, McGill University, 1993; MTS, Harvard Divinity School, 1995; PhD, Boston University, 2002 

  • Biblical Hermeneutics (particularly literary approaches to the Hebrew Bible, the Bible, and gender)
  • The Reception of the Bible (Bible and literature; Scripture and Literary Arts; Midrash)
  • Bible in American life and culture
  • Biblical Studies 
  • Judaism
  • Gender and Judaism
  • Post-biblical Jewish literature


The Bible in the American Short Story. Peter S. Hawkins, co-author. Bloomsbury. New Directions in Religion and Literature Series. Forthcoming: November 2017.

Sustaining Fictions: Intertextuality, Midrash, Translation, and the Literary Afterlife of the Bible. New York: T & T Clark, 2008.


Co-Edited Volumes

From the Margins: Women of the Hebrew Bible and their Afterlives. Peter S. Hawkins, co-editor. Sheffield UK: Sheffield-Phoenix, 2009.

Scrolls of Love: Ruth and the Song of Songs. Peter S. Hawkins, co-editor. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006.



Guest Editor

Served as guest editor of an issue of Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues. The focus of the issue is the reception of biblical women. (Spring 5773/ 2013)



Articles and chapters in books

“Sex and the Singular Girl: Dinah, Tamar, and the Corrective Art of Biblical Narrative”
Biblical Theology Bulletin: Journal of Bible and Culture Volume 47, Issue 4 (November 2017)


“The Book of Ruth: Between Story and History, Between Sacred and Secular (or, Scripture for the Pew’s Jews)” The Journal of Textual Reasoning  9.1 (June 2016)

“Midrash in 20th Century Jewish American Literature” in The Routledge Companion to Literature and Religion, Mark Knight, ed. Abingdon UK and New York: Routledge, 2016. pp. 320-331.

“Reading Genesis Literarily in the Liberal Arts Setting: A Case Study”
Religion and Literature 47.1 (Spring 2015) pp. 41-46.

“Time, Memory, Ritual and Recital: Religion and Literature in Exodus 12.”
Religion and Literature 46.2-3 (Summer-Autumn 2014). pp. 75-94. 

“Introduction” Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues Number 24, Spring 5773/2013. pp. 5-11.

“Paradise Found” Religion and Literature 41.2 (Summer 2009). pp. 213-219.

“Just Another Jewish Mother? Mary in the Jewish Imagination” in From the Margins 2: Women of the New Testament and their Afterlives. Christine Joynes and Christopher Rowland, eds. Sheffield UK: Sheffield-Phoenix Press, 2009. pp. 6-23.

“From Blanket to Blank Slate: The Lives and Times of Abishag the Shunammite” in From the Margins: Women of the Hebrew Bible and their Afterlives. Peter S. Hawkins and Lesleigh Cushing Stahlberg, eds. Sheffield UK: Sheffield-Phoenix Press, 2009. pp. 122-140.

“Refuse, Realism, Retelling: Literal and Literary Reconstructions of Noah’s Ark” in Revaluation, Subversion, Nostalgia: Contemporary Echoes of the Bible, ed. Beth Hawkins Benedix. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. pp. 23-41. 

“Modern Day Moabites: (Mis)Using the Bible in the Debate about Same Sex Marriage” Biblical Interpretation 16, 5 November 2008. pp. 442-475.

“The Opposite of Jewish: On Remembering and Keeping in Contemporary Jewish American Fiction” Shofar Spring 2007 (Vol. 25, No. 3). pp. 72-90.

“Where Has Your Beloved Gone? The Song of Songs in Contemporary Israeli Poetry.” In Scrolls of Love: Ruth and the Song of Songs. Ed. Peter S. Hawkins and Lesleigh Cushing Stahlberg. New York: Fordham UP, 2006. pp. 315-329.

“The Missing Missus: Inventing Noah’s Wife” in Sacred Text, Secular Times: The Hebrew Bible in the Modern World. Leonard Jay Greenspoon and Bryan F. Lebeau, eds. (Omaha: Creighton UP, 2000). pp. 103-133.

The “Good Book” in the “Promised Land”: The Bible in Contemporary American Politics
Bible in Politics conference, St. Mary’s University, Twickenham UK, June 2017.

When Scripture Describes Science: Genesis and the Big Bang
Presentation at the Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting, Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 2015.


Four Introductions to Midrash in 20th Century Jewish Literature
Paper presented at a symposium on Literature and Religion at the University of Toronto, June 2014.



Great Jewish Books: The Bible in the Core
Presentation at “Jewish Text in College Humanities,” a symposium hosted by the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies at Boston University, October 2013.




The Science and Poetry of Genesis 1
Paper presented at the Association of Core Texts and Courses annual conference in Ottawa, Ontario, March  2013.            

Sex and the Singular Girl: Reading Dinah and Tamar
Paper presented at the Hartog Symposium, Pomona College, November 2011.


Dinah, Tamar, and the Corrective Art of Biblical Narrative
Paper given in a Bible and its afterlives seminar at the Hospitable Text conference at the University of Notre Dame’s London campus.  July 2011.

CORE 151: Legacies of the Ancient World


The aim of this course is to study some of the great formative texts of the Western tradition, with a particular eye to their literary constructions and their cultural afterlives. Our conversations in class (and students’ reading in preparation for them) puts these texts in dialogue with one another, examining and exploring the ways they attempt to make sense of the world.


RELG 101: World Religions


This course introduces students to some of the world's religions as well as to the academic study of religion, encouraging students to think both about the nature of religion and approaches to its study.


RELG 208: The Hebrew Bible in America

In reading the Hebrew Bible, we will ask ourselves how the Bible has shaped the American self-image, American politics, culture, history, literature. In what ways are the biblical texts still current in our contemporary world, and in what ways have we departed from the biblical worldviews?

RELG 213: Bible as/ and Literature


This course treats both the Bible as literature and the Bible’s place in literature.  The primary concern is the literature and literary influence of the received text rather than with the history of the text’s transmission.


RELG 228: Jerusalem, City of Gods


An introduction to Judaism, Christianity and Islam and an exploration of the sacred city they share.  Taught as a sophomore residential seminar, with a week-long trip to Jerusalem at the end of the semester.


RELG 230: Feasting and Fasting


Through a comparative approach to food restrictions and injunctions, feasts and fasts, and food-based rituals and liturgies in Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Hindu traditions, this course investigates the role food plays in defining religious boundaries and identities.


RELG 283: Living Judaism


An introduction to Judaism by way of Jewish history, texts, traditions, practices and beliefs.  Emphases will be on self-understanding of Judaism, on varieties of Judaism, and on Jewish religious experience.


RELG 343: Gender and Judaism

The focus of this course is the construction and conception of gender within Judaism.  We consider biblical and rabbinic understandings of gender; the shifts in the practice and place of Jewish women as against men in the late medieval and early modern periods; the rise of contemporary feminist Judaisms; and the redrawing of gender distinctions in recent Judaism.