Iberian Jewish Literature

Iberian Jewish Literature

Between al-Andalus and Christian Europe
Jonathan P. Decter
Distribution: World
Publication date: 08/08/2007
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-34913-2
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Winner, 2008 Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize

This stimulating and graceful book explores Iberian Jewish attitudes toward cultural transition during the 12th and 13th centuries, when growing intolerance toward Jews in Islamic al-Andalus and the southward expansion of the Christian Reconquista led to the relocation of Jews from Islamic to Christian domains. By engaging literary topics such as imagery, structure, voice, landscape, and geography, Jonathan P. Decter traces attitudes toward transition that range from tenacious longing for the Islamic past to comfort in the Christian environment. Through comparison with Arabic and European vernacular literatures, Decter elucidates a medieval Hebrew poetics of estrangement and nostalgia, poetic responses to catastrophe, and the refraction of social issues in fictional narratives.

Published with the generous support of the Koret Foundation.

Author Bio

Jonathan P. Decter is Assistant Professor and holds the Edmond J. Safra Chair in Sephardic Studies, Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University.


“[Decter] brings to bear a vast array of scholarship from the Arabic and Romance fields, as well as medieval Hebrew literature.”
 — Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych, Indiana University

“[A] most welcome and unique contribution to medieval Hebrew literary studies. Its scholarship is sound, it offers excellent translations of many primary texts, and its prose is well written.”
 — Ross Brann, Cornell University

“Contextualizing Jewish-Hebrew culture in the Iberian (Islamo-Arabic and Christian-Latin-Romance) environment, Decter explores issues such as homeland and exile, identity, estrangement, nostalgia, cultural boundaries, hybridity. These issues maintain a vital dialogue with comtemporary literary criticism and cultural studies.”
 — Tova Rosen, Tel Aviv University

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Table of Contents



Part 1. Poetry
1. Space: Landscape and Transition
2. Form: Varieties of Lamentation and Estrangement
3. Imagery: The Protean Garden

Part 2. Narrative
4. Context: Imagining Hebrew Fiction between Arabic and European Sources
5. Structure: Literature in Transition
6. Voice: Maqama and Morality
7. Space: Landscape, Geography, and Transition

Conclusion: Out of the Garden