The Anthology in Jewish Literature

The Anthology in Jewish Literature

The Anthology in Jewish Literature

The Anthology in Jewish Literature

Synopsis

The anthology is a ubiquitous presence in Jewish literature--arguably its oldest literary genre, going back to the Bible itself, and including nearly all the canonical texts of Judaism: the Mishnah, the Talmud, classical midrash, and the prayerbook. In the Middle Ages, the anthology became the primary medium in Jewish culture for recording stories, poems, and interpretations of classical texts. In modernity, the genre is transformed into a decisive instrument for cultural retrieval andre-creation, especially in works of the Zionist project and in modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature. No less importantly, the anthology has played an indispensable role in the creation of significant fields of research in Jewish studies, including Hebrew poetry, folklore, and popular culture. This volume is the first book to bring together scholarly and critical essays that investigate the anthological character of these works and what might be called the "anthological habit" in Jewish literary culture--the tendency and proclivity for gathering together discrete, sometimes conflicting traditions and stories, and preserving them side by side as though there were no difference, conflict, or ambiguity between them. Indeed, The Anthology in Jewish Literature is the first book to recognize this habit and genre as one of the formative categories in Jewish literature and to investigate its manifold roles. The seventeen essays, each of which focuses on a specific literary work, manyof them the great classics of Jewish tradition, consider such questions as: What are the many types of anthologies? How have anthologists, editors, even printers of anthologies been creative shapers of Jewish tradition and culture? What can we learn from their editorial practices? How have politics, gender, and class figured into the making of anthologies? What determinative role has the anthology played in creating the Jewish canon? How has the anthology served, especially in the modern period, to create and recreate Jewish culture. This landmark volume will interest educated laypersons as well as scholars in all areas of Jewish literature and culture, as well as students of world literature and cultural studies.

Excerpt

David Stern

From the Talmud to the latest collection of contemporary American Jewish writers in your local bookstore window, the anthology has been a pervasive, ubiquitous presence in Jewish literature throughout its history. the anthology may also be its oldest literary genre—if, that is, one accepts the documentary hypothesis, according to which the Pentateuch is a collection from different literary sources. Even if one does not accept the thesis, it is clear that many biblical books either are themselves collections, such as the books of Psalms or Proverbs, or tend to exhibit what might be called the “anthological habit”—that is, the tendency of gathering together discrete, sometimes conflicting retellings of stories or traditions (e.g., the two versions of the creation of woman, or analogous lists of unrelated commandments and miscellaneous laws) and preserving them side by side as though there were no difference, conflict, or ambiguity between them.

Eventually, of course, this tendency assumes its full shape in the many explicit anthologies, or anthology-like works, that populate later Jewish literature. Among these are almost all the canonical texts of the rabbinic period, including the Mishnah and the Tosefta, the classical midrash collections, the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, and the siddur (prayerbook) and its offshoots, including the Passover Haggadah. Subsequently, in the Middle Ages the anthology continues to hold its prominent position in the literary spectrum. in addition to the many summae of the classical rabbinic heritage that are compiled throughout the medieval period, the anthology becomes a primary medium for the recording of stories, poems, and interpretations of classical texts original to the period. Finally, in the modern age the anthological genre is transformed into a decisive instrument for cultural retrieval and re-creation, not only in such classic works as Sefer Ha’aggadah and Mimekor Yisrael but also in innumerable works of the early Zionist project and in modern Yiddish literature. No less important, the anthology has played an indispensable role in the creation of significant fields of research in Jewish studies, including midrash, Hebrew poetry, folklore, and popular culture.

And yet, despite the ubiquity of the anthological presence in Jewish literature . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.