From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature

By Burton L. Visotzky; David E. Fishman | Go to book overview

alluding to its opening words. This practice is not merely a technical device but a structural principle, for it lends many poems a closed, circular feeling that is different from the open-endedness of the monorhymed poetry inherited from Arabic by the Golden Age poets. Strophic Hebrew poetry on secular themes had become much less common in Spain -- where it had originated -- than in other Mediterranean lands, which had learned it from earlier Spanish Hebrew poets, or which were adopting new strophic forms from Italian. One has the impression that contemporaneous tendencies in Spanish literature left little mark on Hebrew poetry, but this topic has not been investigated sufficiently. Traditional Hebrew scholars have been content to label it epigonic, thereby discouraging serious investigation of an important creative moment in Hebrew letters.

In what was left of Muslim Spain, the Jewish community had been reduced by the Almohads to insignificance, never to recover. Jews returned to Granada after the establishment of the Nasrid dynasty in the thirteenth century, but we have little information about them. After the anti-Jewish riots and forced conversions that raged throughout Christian Spain in 1391, many conversos made their way to Muslim Granada, where they could return to Judaism. The last Hebrew poet of Muslim Spain was a Granadan Jew, Saadia Ibn Danan, who was among the Jewish exiles of 1492. He went to Morocco, where he wrote a treatise on the craft of poetry. Among the last Hebrew poets of Christian Spain was Judah Abravanel. In 1503, he wrote a long poem, still using the Arabic prosody first adapted for use in Hebrew by Spanish Jews four and a half centuries earlier to describe his experiences at the time of the expulsion and the dislocation he experienced thereafter. Under the name Leone Ebreo, he was to become famous among Italian writers of the Renaissance as the author of a treatise on love. He is thus a bridge figure into the Renaissance. But that is another chapter in the long and colorful history of Hebrew letters.


Suggested Readings

Carmi, Ted. The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse. Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin Books, 1981.

Cole, Peter. Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Elbogen, Ismar. Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History. Translated by Raymond R. Scheindlin . Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1993.

Pagis, Dan. Hebrew Poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Petuchowski, Jakob. Studies in the Medieval Piyyut. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978.

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From Mesopotamia to Modernity: Ten Introductions to Jewish History and Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 7
  • 1 - The Hebrew Bible 9
  • Notes 35
  • Suggested Readings 35
  • 2 - Jewish History and Culture in the Hellenistic Period 37
  • Notes 54
  • Suggested Readings 55
  • 3 - Judaism Under Roman Domination: from the Hasmoneans Through the Destruction of the Second Temple 57
  • Notes 69
  • Suggested Readings 69
  • 4 - The Literature of the Rabbis 71
  • Suggested Readings 102
  • 5 - The History of Medieval Jewry 103
  • Suggested Readings 126
  • 6 - Medieval Jewish Literature 127
  • Suggested Readings 165
  • 7 - Medieval Jewish Philosophy 167
  • Notes 180
  • Suggested Readings 180
  • 8 - Modern Jewish History 181
  • Suggested Readings 206
  • 9 - History of Soviet Jewry 207
  • Notes 231
  • Suggested Readings 231
  • 10 - Modern Jewish Literature 233
  • Notes 254
  • Suggested Readings 254
  • About the Editors and Contributors 255
  • Index 257
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