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The Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Simcha Gross (Penn): "“Whoever is hungry, come and eat”: On the Origins and Winding Reception of a Puzzling Passover Passage"

Jewish Babylonian incantation bowl (from 6-7th century Iraq), Penn Museum B2945

Monday, November 9, 2020, 5:15pm, via Zoom

Our speaker writes:
The recitation of the Passover Haggadah continues to be one of the most enduring, widespread, and recognizable Jewish practices. A famously accretive text, the Passover Haggadah has been modified by Jews in different historical moments and cultural contexts over millennia. This presentation concentrates on the provenance and complicated nachleben of the opening Aramaic portion of the Passover Haggadah, which has confounded practitioners and scholars for centuries. Neglected material remains - Talmudic manuscripts and incantation bowls - reveal the original social context of the opening Aramaic portion, which was entirely unrelated to Passover or Jewish ritual. Its continued development serves as a test case for the long and winding history of Jewish practices and texts as they grow untethered from the setting in which they were culturally legible and are transmitted to new contexts and actors.

About our speaker:
Simcha Gross is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on religious communities in the Near East over the first millennium. His current book project explores the formative aspects of Sasanian Persian rule on Babylonian Jewish culture and society, juxtaposed with the experience of Syriac Christians. His publications include The History of the 'Slave of Christ': From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr, a co-authored edition, translation, and comprehensive introduction to the only Syriac martyr act about a Jewish boy who converts to Christianity; an edited volume entitled Jews and Christians: Interactions over the first Millennium; and many articles on Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians living under Sasanian and early Islamic rule.

We are virtual for fall 2020! All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on how to attend upcoming Zoom meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Philip Mogen.

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