In a penetrating exploration of the various ways memories and representations of the Jewish past have been reconfigured in new historical circumstances, Renewing the Past, Reconfiguring Jewish Culture focuses on two key eras of encounter between Jews and non-Jews: the golden age of Sephardic culture in Islamic al-Andalus, on the one hand, and on the other, the period of the European Enlightenment and the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskalah, which it inspired. The writings assembled here engage with key issues to understand how in both epochs the cultural orientation of Jewish society was profoundly reassessed and transformed by new influences filtering in from outside.
Adopting a comparative historical approach, Renewing the Past, Reconfiguring Jewish Culture offers a view of moments of heightened interaction between Jews and their host cultures. The elevation of the ideal of rationalism provoked significant shifts in the aesthetic values and patterns of cultural memory in Sephardic al-Andalus; this same ideal once again posed insistent challenges in the era of the Enlightenment, to which Jewish intellectuals widely responded by evoking, but also refashioning, the historical precedent of the Andalusian Golden Age.
Looking to contexts ranging from premodern Spain and Italy to nineteenth-century Russia, Germany, and America, the eleven contributors to this volume—drawn equally from literary and historical studies—explore the ways the political and intellectual aspirations of successive historical presents have repeatedly reshaped the forms and narratives of Jewish cultural memory.
Foreword David B. Ruderman
Introduction: Al-Andalus, Enlightenment, and the Renewal of the Jewish Past
—Adam Sutcliffe and Ross Brann
PART I. PHILOSOPHY, POETRY, AND CULTURAL EXCHANGE IN PREMODERN AL-ANDALUS AND ITALY
1. Aesthetic Models in Conflict: Classicist versus Ornamental in Jewish Poetics
2. The Uses of Exile in Poetic Discourse: Some Examples from Medieval Hebrew Literature
3. Their Rose in Our Garden: Romance: Elements in Hebrew Italian Poetry
4. The Crisis of Medieval Knowledge in the Work of the Fifteenth-Century Poet and Philosopher Moses da Rieti
PART II. RENEWING TEXTS, CHANGING HORIZONS: THE JEWISH ENLIGHTENMENTS APPROPRIATION OF ANDALUSI IDEALS
5. Judah Halevis Kuzari in the Haskalah: The Reinterpretation and Re-imagining of a Medieval Work
6. The Aesthetic Difference: Moses Mendelssohns Kohelet Musar and the Inception of the Berlin Haskalah
7. Varieties of Haskalah: Sabato Moraiss Program of Sephardi Rabbinic Humanism in Victorian America
PART III: REFASHIONINGS OF THE JEWISH PAST IN THE ERA OF HASKALAH
8. Solomon Maimon and His Jewish Philosophical Predecessors: The Evidence of His Autobiography
9. Quarreling over Spinoza: Moses: Mendelssohn and the Fashioning of Jewish Philosophical Heroism
10. Strategic Friendships: Jewish Intellectuals, the Abbé Grégoire, and the French Revolution
—Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall
11. Heine and Haggadah: History, Narration and Tradition in the Age of Wissenschaft des Judentums
List of Contributors
Ross Brann is Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies, Cornell University. He is author of The Compunctious Poet: Cultural Ambiguity and Hebrew Poetry in Muslim Spain and Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Muslims and Jews in Islamic Spain.
"An important contribution not only to Jewish studies but also to the larger study of historical memory."
~American Historical Review