Modern Ladino Culture: Press, Belles Lettres, and Theatre in the Late Ottoman Empire

Modern Ladino Culture: Press, Belles Lettres, and Theatre in the Late Ottoman Empire

Modern Ladino Culture: Press, Belles Lettres, and Theatre in the Late Ottoman Empire

Modern Ladino Culture: Press, Belles Lettres, and Theatre in the Late Ottoman Empire

Synopsis

Olga Borovaya explores the emergence and expansion of print culture in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), the mother tongue of the Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire, in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. She provides the first comprehensive study of the three major forms of Ladino literary production-the press, belles lettres, and theater-as a single cultural phenomenon. The product of meticulous research and innovative methodology, Modern Ladino Culture offers a new perspective on the history of the Ladino press, a novel approach to the study of belles lettres in Ladino and their relationship to their European sources, and a fine-grained critique of Sephardic plays as venues for moral education and politicization.

Excerpt

This book is the first study of the three forms of modern Ladino cultural production—the press, belles lettres, and theater—in their unity as a single cultural phenomenon produced by Sephardi Jews in the late Ottoman period. Having no counterparts in previous epochs, these three genres emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century as a result of westernization and secularization. They were imported by Sephardi westernizers from Europe but took root and developed in their own ways in the local culture. Since they were created by the same literati for the same audience and with the same intention, by examining each of them in isolation from the other two, one risks failing to see the new cultural movement in its entirety or to comprehend its place in Sephardi history. Nevertheless, this study is divided into three parts organized chronologically in the order in which the genres emerged, the press being the earliest one. However, this division, which is essential for my analysis, does not obscure the total picture because belles lettres is examined against the backdrop of the press which brought it into existence, and theater is discussed in the context of both the press, which played an exceptional role in its development, and belles lettres, the genre closest to it in terms of subject matter.

As I am not concerned with the aesthetic value of Ladino culture but, rather, regard its textual manifestations as a source on Sephardi history, this book will focus mainly on printed materials. For this reason, I will limit my examination of Sephardi Theater to Ladino plays and the representation of this cultural practice in the press. Furthermore, from a historian’s standpoint, examining a Ladino text only within the framework of a single genre category or even in the context of the author’s work as a whole is not . . .

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