"An important contribution not only to Jewish studies but also to the larger study of historical memory."—American Historical ReviewIn 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.
Ross Brann is M. R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies at Cornell University and is author of Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-century Islamic Spain.
Adam Sutcliffe teaches Jewish history at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is author of Judaism and Enlightenment.