Reading the Underthought explores the question of how readers from one tradition can approach the poetry of another. Based on the assumption that readers from diverse cultural backgrounds may have something positive and generative to bring to an alien text, this book examines the contribution that a reader schooled in Jewish hermeneutic practices may offer to the interpretation and appreciation of mainstream Christian religious poetry. Through detailed analysis of the procedures of talmudic interpretative practice, Kinereth Meyer and Rachel Salmon Deshen explain the dynamics of a rabbinic hermeneutic approach and show how it can provide new insights into the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and T. S. Eliot. While they illustrate how the modes of talmudic interpretation resonate with other contemporary critical approaches--such as intertextuality, deconstruction, and performance theory--they also demonstrate how these critical modes can be differentiated in ways significant for the reading process. Connections between rabbinic hermeneutics and modern literary theory have been examined in recent scholarship, but this is the first study that considers the effect that Jewish interpretive strategies might have on the reading of literary texts of the Western tradition. The authors concretely illustrate how differences in cultural and interpretive assumptions can be brought into fruitful conversation, and they suggest a model for readers who approach texts from various outside positions.