One of my favorite events in the Exploring Yiddishland course was “Queer Dreams of Jewish Women’s Poetry” with Dr. Zohar Weiman-Kelman. I have had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Weiman-Kelman a few times before, and it is always eye opening to see how creatively they approach literature, history, and our interpretation of it. Queer history is hard to find. And as a queer person part of learning about myself is learning about queer history. This is where difficulties arise. While queer people have existed as long as people have existed, queer recorded history can be hard to find, particularly that of queer women. To bridge this gap Dr. Weiman-Kelman argues a queer reading of ambiguous history. Perhaps argue is too strong a word. They perform a queer reading, they comment on the subtext, and what the words mean to them, and you are free to do as you wish. At the end of the day, this is the magic of literature. It can mean anything as long as you believe in it.
The best part about Dr. Weiman-Kelman’s approach is that it cannot be incorrect. The author of the poetry we read could come back alive and tell us to our faces that wasn’t what they meant, and we would both be right. Literature means what it means to you, and the queer community has a storied history of reading queer subtext where the creators do not intend for it to be read, or even actively argue against it. But if literature is not subjective, then it loses its power. And if queer people cannot create history when we cannot find it, then we will have barely any history at all.