Readings in Medieval Hebrew Poetry || INTRODUCTION

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  • INTRODUCTIONAuthor(s): RAYMOND P. SCHEINDLINSource: Prooftexts, Vol. 16, No. 1, Readings in Medieval Hebrew Poetry (JANUARY 1996), pp.1-3Published by: Indiana University PressStable URL: .Accessed: 12/06/2014 23:21

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    THE ESSAYS IN THIS SPECIAL ISSUE of Prooftexts reflect the increased interest in medieval Hebrew literature in the present generation. While the number of people working in the field is still too small to permit a

    completely effective assault on the numerous topics awaiting research, that number is growing. It appears to be only a matter of time before the

    poetry of premodern Jewish conununities is accorded a place in the

    general consciousness commensurate with its role in premodern Jewish life.

    The amazing thing is that this consciousness, once strong, has faded so. The Jewish historians and philologists who were the prime movers in the establishment of Judaica as an academic field of study were certainly aware of poetry as an important Jewish cultural activity. Zunz, the founder of J?dische Wissenschaft, devoted much of his career to cataloging

    medieval Hebrew poetry, especially the poetry of the synagogue. Heine, who was at one stage in his career connected with the J?dische Wissen

    schaft circle, treated the subject repeatedly in his own poetry. Stein schneider contributed some translations. Graetz was not only eloquent in his praise of Golden Age Hebrew poetry, but demonstrated considerable

    literary flair in his interpretation of medieval Hebrew literary texts. It was only natural that much of the effort of specialists until the

    middle of this century was devoted to spadework: identifying texts and

    poets, cataloging, editing, and indexing. Much work of this type still remains to be done: critical editions are still lacking for important poets, as are concordances to medieval Hebrew poets, and dictionaries describ

    ing the various registers of medieval Hebrew; we also really need an

    index of biblical exegesis to help with the interpretation of poetry based PROOFTEXTS 16 (1996): 1-3 ? 1996 by The Johns Hopkins University Press

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    on biblical Hebrew. But even given the importance of these activities, it is

    surprising that so little interpretive work was done before the present

    generation of scholars made it the principal part of its agenda. The essays collected here reflect a variety of current approaches to the

    material. Tova Rosen's essay on a poem by Isaac Ibn Khalfun exemplifies the alertness of some scholars to contemporary tools of general literary criticism?in this case, to those provided by feminist criticism. Andr?s H?mori's study of a poem by Samuel Hanagid represents the increased

    sophistication of studies relating Hebrew poetry of the Golden Age to Arabic poetry. This writer's essay on a poem by Ibn Gabir l reflects an

    interest in the distinctive literary imagination that unifies the entire

    corpus of a great poet, with all its variety of theme, tone, and texture. The

    joint essay by Ross Brann, Angel S?enz-Badillos, and Judit Targarona on

    Samuel Ibn Sasson exemplifies the growing interest in the post-Golden Age Hebrew poets of Spain; though published long ago, Ibn Sasson has never before had the benefit of a study. Finally, the paper by Angel S?enz Badillos on Todros Abulafia and his friend and rival Phinehas reflects a

    growing awareness on the part of specialists of the contribution of literary tastes deriving from Romance literature to thirteenth-century Hebrew

    poetry, still deeply rooted in the Arabic tradition. All the papers gathered here deal with secular Hebrew poetry from

    Spain. This narrow focus was not intentional; it merely reflects the

    continuing attraction of this particular school of poets for Hebrew literary scholars. It is very satisfying that our collection (like several other recent collections of studies on medieval Hebrew poetry) accords due and long delayed recognition to the poets who succeeded the great masters of the Golden Age. But scholars in the field still do not range widely enough. The medieval period was the great age of Hebrew poetry not just in

    Spain, but worldwide, for secular poetry was written throughout the

    Arabic-speaking world and in Italy, and liturgical poetry was written

    everywhere. The failure of scholars in our field to give due attention to such poets as Joseph ben Tanhum Ha-Yerushalmi in Egypt and Eliezer ben Jacob in Iraq is bad enough. But our failure to address the liturgical poetry of Byzantine Palestine, of Byzantine Italy, of Abbasid Iraq, and of central and western Europe actually has resulted in a distortion of our

    picture of medieval Jewish spiritual life. Study of non-Golden Age liturgical poetry has remained in the hunting-and-gathering stage; the vast quantity of material that has been discovered and published is long overdue for study both for its literary and religious value.

    The idea for the present issue of Prooftexts came from Professor Alan

    Mintz, who suggested that I take advantage of the presence of several

    foreign scholars in the New York area by holding a symposium and

    publishing the results. Pursuant to this suggestion, two symposia were

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  • Introduction 3

    held at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1994. The participants were asked to present a reading of a particular poem that they thought exemplified some larger scholarly theme. The papers published here are

    mostly fuller versions of those presented at the symposia. It is hoped that further such meetings will be held in the future.


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    Article Contentsp. [1]p. 2p. 3

    Issue Table of ContentsProoftexts, Vol. 16, No. 1, Readings in Medieval Hebrew Poetry (JANUARY 1996), pp. 1-112Front MatterINTRODUCTION [pp. 1-3]"Like a Woman": Gender and Genre in a Love Poem by Isaac Ibn Khalfun [pp. 5-13]Rhetoric and the Succession of Themes in a Poem by Samuel Hanagid [pp. 15-29]Poet and Patron: Ibn Gabirol's Poem of the Palace and Its Gardens [pp. 31-47]Hebrew Invective Poetry: The Debate between Todros Abulafia and Phinehas Halevi [pp. 49-73]The Poetic Universe of Samuel Ibn Sasson, Hebrew Poet of Fourteenth-Century Castile [pp. 75-103]REVIEWArabic Poetics in Hebrew Poetry of the Golden Age [pp. 105-111]

    ABSTRACTSBack Matter


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