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Jewish Literary Eros
Between Poetry and Prose in the Medieval Mediterranean
Foreword by Raymond P. Scheindlin
Published by: Indiana University Press
In Jewish Literary Eros, Isabelle Levy explores the originality and complexity of medieval Jewish writings. Examining medieval prosimetra (texts composed of alternating prose and verse), Levy demonstrates that secular love is the common theme across Arabic, Hebrew, French, and Italian texts. At the crossroads of these spheres of intellectual activity, Jews of the medieval Mediterranean composed texts that combined dominant cultures' literary stylings with biblical Hebrew and other elements from Jewish cultures. Levy explores Jewish authors' treatments of love in prosimetra and finds them creative, complex, and innovative.
Jewish Literary Eros compares the mixed-form compositions by Jewish authors of the medieval Mediterranean with their Arabic and European counterparts to find the particular moments of innovation among textual practices by Jewish authors. When viewed in the comparative context of the medieval Mediterranean, the evolving relationship between the mixed form and the theme of love in secular Jewish compositions refines our understanding of the ways in which the Jewish literature of the period negotiates the hermeneutic and theological underpinnings of Islamicate and Christian literary traditions.
Note on Translation and Transliteration
1. The Relative Merits of Prose and Poetry
2. The Medieval Jewish Prosimetric Poet-Lover
3. Love Between Poetry and Prose
4. The Death of Courtly Love and the Poetry of Prose
Appendix A: Bisbidis, by Immanuel of Rome
Appendix B: Timeline
Isabelle Levy is MA Program Director and Lecturer at the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, Columbia University. She was previously a Fulbright fellow in Spain. She researches medieval Jewish literature of the medieval Mediterranean with respect to Arabic and Romance counterparts.
Isabelle Levy offers a thoughtful analysis of the genre of prosimetra by Jewish writers during the Middle Ages in Europe. She adeptly demonstrates how they fused different linguistic and cultural traditions in their works, from the Arabic and Hebrew cultures of Andalusian Spain, and of the Islamic world more broadly, to Christendom's Latin and local vernacular poetic movements. Writers such as Immanuel ha-Romi stood at the conjunction of multiple cultures, borrowing from sources as distinct as Hebrew maqama and Dante's Vita Nuova. With Jewish Literary Eros, Isabelle Levy bridges the different fields of knowledge necessary to understand the medieval Jewish tradition.~Fabian Alfie, University of Arizona
In Jewish Literary Eros: Between Poetry and Prose in the Medieval Mediterranean, Isabelle Levy delivers on the title—and then some. She tackles the theme of love as it emerges in the mixed form, in which poetry and prose alternate, in Hebrew, Arabic, and Romance languages and literatures. The book gives readers the best of Mediterranean studies and the global Middle Ages.~Jan Ziolkowski, Harvard University
Isabelle Levy's Jewish Literary Eros provides a virtuosic analysis of a combined form of prose and poetry across three literary cultures of the medieval Mediterranean: Hebrew, Arabic, and Romance. Levy deftly unravels the Hebrew hybrid forms that emerged from the interplay with Iberian Arabic, Dante's Italian, and the world of courtly romance. Her skillful exploration of medieval and early modern writing about love is a triumph of scholarship and a feat of graceful prose.~Elisheva Carlebach, Salo W. Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture and Society, Columbia University
Levy's Jewish Literary Eros seamlessly moves across linguistic domains—Hebrew, Arabic and Romance—to reconnoiter the interweaving of poetry and prose in medieval Jewish literature on love. A stunning work of literary scholarship, its fine readings on the intimate bonds between love and poetry in Jewish prosimetra secure their place as premodern classics of world literature within a capacious comparative setting.~Luis M. Girón Negrón, Harvard University