The year 1492 has long divided the study of Sephardic culture into two distinct periods, before and after the expulsion of Jews from Spain. David A. Wacks examines the works of Sephardic writers from the 13th to the 16th centuries and shows that this literature was shaped by two interwoven experiences of diaspora: first from the Biblical homeland Zion and later from the ancestral hostland, Sefarad. Jewish in Spain and Spanish abroad, these writers negotiated Jewish, Spanish, and diasporic idioms to produce a uniquely Sephardic perspective. Wacks brings Diaspora Studies into dialogue with medieval and early modern Sephardic literature for the first time.
1. Diaspora Studies for Sephardic Culture
2. Allegory and Romance in Diaspora: Jacob ben Elazar's Book of Tales
3. Poetry in Diaspora: From al-Andalus to Provence and back to Castile
4. The Anxiety of Vernacularization: Shem Tov ben Isaac ibn Ardutiel de Carrión's Proverbios morales and Debate between the Pen and the Scissors
5. Diaspora as Tragicomedy: Vidal Benvenist's Efer and Dina
6. Empire and Diaspora: Solomon ibn Verga's Shevet Yehudah and Joseph Karo's Magid Meisharim
7. Reading Amadís in Constantinople: Spanish Fiction in the Key of Diaspora
David Wacks’s study is groundbreaking for its pioneering scope and poignant analysis. Through the critical lens of a 'double diaspora' Wacks sheds new light on the themes of expulsion and redemption in works by some of the most important medieval Spanish Jewish authors in the post-Zion Iberian exile such as Moses Maimonides and Judah Halevi. Wacks also leads the field of Sephardic Studies in a new direction by casting his critical eye on texts by lesser known Jewish writers, including the kabbalist Joseph Karo, living in a second exile from post-1492 Spain.
Gregory B. Kaplan
University of Tennessee
David Wacks’s elegant monograph bridges the divide between Hebraists and Hispanists, medievalists and early modernists, with conceptual sophistication and substantive insights. It makes, indeed, a compelling case for the analytic viability of “double diaspora” in the literary history of Sephardic Jews and the inscription of Hispano-Jewish literature in the Weltliteratur canon. An important contribution and a superb read.
Luis M. Girón Negrón
Double Diaspora will enrich the multiple fields it participates in--medieval and romance studies, Sephardic history, Hebrew literature, and many more.
Wacks’s book uncovers the experience and enriches the academic field of Hebrew and Romance literary studies by opening up a whole new set of questions and by suggesting new approaches to the study of Jewish cultural heritage, which, as Wacks makes clear, should always take into account the surrounding non-Jewish intellectual context.
Wacks makes a crucial first foray toward a more nuanced critical understanding of the literary world of Spanish Jewry. His attempts to renegotiate the boundaries of the canon and extend Iberian literature to include non-Castilian and even non-Iberian texts raise profound questions about how Spanish literature should be studied and taught.