Jacob's Shipwreck: Diaspora, Translation, and Jewish-Christian Relations in Medieval England (Hardback)Ruth Nisse (author)
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Jewish and Christian authors of the High Middle Ages not infrequently came into dialogue or conflict with each other over traditions drawn from ancient writings outside of the bible. Circulating in Hebrew and Latin translations, these included the two independent versions of the Testament of Naphtali in which the patriarch has a vision of the Diaspora, a shipwreck that scatters the twelve tribes. The Christian narrative is linear and ends in salvation; the Jewish narrative is circular and pessimistic. For Ruth Nisse, this is an emblematic text that illuminates relationships between interpretation, translation, and survival.In Nisse's account, extrabiblical literature encompasses not only the historical works of Flavius Josephus but also some of the more ingenious medieval Hebrew imaginative texts, Aesop's fables and the Aeneid. The Latin epic tradition, as it happens, includes a fascinating Hebrew intervention. While Christian-Jewish relations in medieval England and Northern France are often associated with persecutions of Jews in the wake of the Crusades and Christian polemics against Judaism, the period also saw a growing interest in language study and translation in both communities. These noncanonical texts and their afterlives provided Jews and Christians alike with resources of fiction that they used to reconsider boundaries of doctrine and interpretation. Among the works that Nisse takes as exemplary of this medieval moment are the Book of Yosippon, a tenth-century Hebrew adaptation of Josephus with a wide circulation and influence in the later middle ages, and the second-century romance of Aseneth about the religious conversion of Joseph's Egyptian wife. Yosippon gave Jews a new discourse of martyrdom in its narrative of the fall of Jerusalem, and at the same time it offered access to the classical historical models being used by their Christian contemporaries. Aseneth provided its new audience of medieval monks with a way to reimagine the troubling consequences of unwilling Jewish converts.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 248
Weight: 539 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 24 mm
"Nisse's well-made argument that Christians and Jews shared quite a bit in terms of the texts and ideas that are the focus of her study apparently applies to Jewish biblical interpreters, certain liturgical poets and scholars, polemicists, and sui generis polyglots such as Berekhiah. She has produced a first-rate study that will likely engender further discussion, as well as new avenues of research."* Reading Religion *
"With this book, Nisse adds to the understanding of how Jews resisted and absorbed Christian culture and how Christians, in turn, responded to Jews. Anyone interested in the complexities of medieval Christian-Jewish relations and how to study them could benefit from this book."* Choice *
"Jacob's Shipwreck contributes in very significant ways to scholarly work on Jewish-Christian relations. Ruth Nisse makes a body of abstruse material accessible to the academic reader. She also develops a cogent argument about that material and what it suggests about medieval Jewish-Christian relationships, and specifically about the way in which a number of projects of translation-both Christian projects that take Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew texts and bring them into Latin, and Jewish projects that work primarily from Latin to Hebrew-reflect the nuances of those relationships and the distinct ways of conceiving the history of both political power and intellectual work. Jacob's Shipwreck will be required reading for anyone interested in the complex exchanges between medieval Christian and Jewish communities."-- Steven Kruger, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, author of The Spectral Jew: Conversion and Embodiment in Medieval Europe
"Ruth Nisse's brilliant analysis not only tells a new story about Christian-Jewish interaction; it also makes a bold intervention in received notions of the literary. Anyone interested in rethinking the medieval literary canon-its languages, producers and influences-should read Jacob's Shipwreck."-- Kathy Lavezzo, University of Iowa, author of The Accommodated Jew
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