And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson . . . (or Mrs. Potifar ....)
In this week’s Parshah (Torah Portion), Vayeishev (found in Bereishit/Genesis 38-40), we are introduced to Yoseph (Joseph), the second youngest of Yaakov’s (Jacobs) twelve sons. Despite being the second youngest, Yoseph has dreams of one day being the leader. This coupled with Yaakov favoring Yoseph causes feelings of resentment by the brothers towards Yoseph. His brothers eventually sell Yoseph into slavery in Egypt. While Yoseph is a slave, he rises to a high position as a slave. He becomes the Head Slave, in charge of the entire household of his master Potifar. Yoseph is described in the Torah as a very attractive man Bereishit/Genesis 39:6 “… Now Yoseph was handsome of form and handsome of appearance”. He is so attractive that in verse 7 the wife of Potifar tells Yoseph to have sex with her. Yoseph realizes the obvious moral wrong of agreeing to the indecent proposal of the wife of Potifar, and he refuses to have sex with her. Later on in verses 10-18 she continues to pursue Yoseph unsuccessfully, and eventually one day she tears his clothes off and Yoseph runs away. Presumably to save face and protect herself from what Yoseph might say and the potential reprisals her husband might take towards her, the wife of Potifar lies to the entire household and her husband, and says that Yoseph attempted to take advantage of her. Yoseph is then thrown in jail by Potifar.
92Y Video: From the Poetry Center Archive: Sapphire and Sherman Alexie
Caution: video contains profanity
“This feels like a beauty pageant… and I’m gonna lose!” joked Sherman Alexie as he approached the podium to address an audience question during the post-reading conversation between him and Sapphire on November 21 at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center.
Today’s featured video is the entirety of that evening’s Q-and-A, in which both writers—and in tones both serious and not-so—talked about the relationship between vernacular and standard English, the bleakness of life as compared to fiction, the banning of their books in various communities across the country and, finally, what they would promote as recommended reading were they themselves high-school teachers.
Sapphire’s response to that last one: “I would have them read everything. From Shakespeare to Toni Morrison, from the slave narratives to Sherman Alexie, from the Brontës to Faulkner, from Ice-T to Motown...”
Watch the clip to find out what Sherman said.
Next up at 92Y Poetry: Words & Music: The Cornet Rilke with Wolfgang Holzmair, baritone / speaker and Shai Wosner, piano, on January 23. That’s followed by Péter Nádas on January 26.
In an ongoing effort to share with our readers some of the great literary moments which the Unterberg Poetry Center has presented across the decades, this blog has begun to feature regular postings of archival recordings. For access to other recordings, please click here.
Unterberg Poetry Center webcasts and access to our archive are made possible in part by the generous support of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation.