Medieval Hebrew Poetry in Its Religious and Secular Context
3rd EAJS Summer Colloquium, Yarnton Manor, 24th to 27th July 2000.
Between 24 and 27 July 2000 a unique meeting of twenty-five participants took place under the aegis of the European Association for Jewish Studies, with the central focus being the Hebrew poetry of the Middle Ages. The series of lectures was opened by Esperanza Alfonso who reformulated the functions of the body terminology pertaining to the mamduh or benefactor in poetry of praise. Also Ulf Haxen, Karen Almbladh and Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio presented views and questions concerning Hebrew-Andalusian qasidahs, while Arie Schippers compared the allusions to biblical and koranic quotations defined as figures of speech. Mordecai Cohen dealt with the concept of metaphor in Moses ibn Ezra’s poetics, and Ottfried Fraisse showed the interrelationship of philosophy, exegesis and poetry in Moses ibn Tibbon’s thirteenth-century commentary on The Song of Songs.
A majority of the papers discussed trends and developments in Hebrew poetry from the thirteenth-century onwards: Jonathan Decter demonstrated the literary subtleties of Sefer Tahkemoni by Judah al-Harizi in contrast with Jacob ben Eleazar’s Sefer ha-Meshalim, proving that both authors express different attitudes towards the Andalusian past. Joseph Yahalom presented an important work on the theory of Hebrew poetry by the Baghdadi poet Eleazar ben Jacob ha-Bavli. Judith Dishon analysed the book of homonyms, The Perfumed Flower Beds, composed by Joseph ben Tanhum ha-Yerushalmi in fourteenth-century Egypt. Angel Sáenz-Badillos presented fascinating aspects of the satirical verses in Solomon Bonafed’s diwan and Judit Taragona summarized the present state of the manuscripts concerning the diwan of Solomon de Piera. Aviva Doron discussed the craft of poetry in Christian Spain and the poet’s commitment to telling the truth. Ann Brener characterised Isaac ha-Gorni, whose poetry opens a window onto the troubadour world of his own day and age, and Tova Beeri showed that in the Ottoman Empire Hebrew poetry gradually conformed to the demands of Turkish musical forms. Shlomo Berger described how ibn Gabirol’s Keter Malkhut retained its importance in seventeenth-century Yiddish translations. Hebrew verse from Spain and its aftermath was certainly not the exclusive theme of the Colloquium: others like Elisabeth Hollender, Zvi Malachi and Simha Goldin dealt with the poetry of Ashkenaz. Young lecturers like Yehoshua Granat and Naoya Katsumata discussed the concept of intertextuality and the Hebrew style of the hymnist Samuel the Third respectively. The contributions of these and other doctoral researchers to the interdisciplinary dimensions of the field in an open atmosphere of questioning and observing were a particular stimulant to the participants of a meeting which was a great success and has led to request for further similar colloquia in the future.
Wout van Bekkum