In a Fragile World: Exilic History among Early Modern European Jews
How did early modern Jews become interested in exilic history? Did exile – the loss of sovereignty – not signal the end of Jewish history? What can Hebrew and Yiddish sources tell us about the ways in which European Jews engaged with their past and present in Christian and Islamic lands? And could their ways of ‘doing’ exilic history speak to critical questions about history, self-representation and belonging today?
Early Modern European Jews were intensely conscious of living in exile, but did not consider this the same as living without, or outside of, history. On the contrary, they developed distinct ways of engaging with local and global history that were shaped by their religious and political commitments as a minority in a precarious world. This project investigates how authors, editors, translators and printers between Kraków and Amsterdam ‘did’ exilic history and created a historical library in the vernacular: a library of Sephardic and Ashkenazic works that were regularly re-printed and updated, made available in Yiddish, and used for critical explorations of the present moment. Their approaches to exilic history shed light on the particularity of Christian concepts of universal and progressive history and offer new perspectives for current academic and public debates on ‘doing’ history in a fragile world.
1) ‘A Tradition in the Plural: Reframing Sefer Yosippon for Modern Times’, in: Josephus in Modern Jewish Culture, ed. Andrea Schatz (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 62–84.
2) L’Affaire de Damas (1840): Perspectives franco-allemandes / Die Damaskus-Affäre (1840): Französisch-deutsche Perspektiven, trans. Michel Valensi, (Paris: Edition éclats, 2017).
3) ‘“Eleven Calendars”: Beyond Secular Time’, in Secularism in Question: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times, ed. Alexander Joskowicz and Ethan Katz (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 299–314.