Micha Perry (University of Haifa): "Medieval Jewish Bilingual Charters: Texts, Signs and Sounds"

Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Featured Image: Graz, 1389. Wien, Deutschordenszentralarchiv (DOZA) Urkunden, 2528.

Monday, March 28, 2022, 5:15pm, in person and via Zoom
Fourteenth-century charter from Germany with a few lines in Hebrew at the bottom

Our speaker writes:

In my presentation, I will be looking at a large group of bilingual medieval charters, texts composed in both Latin (or other European languages) and Hebrew (or other Jewish languages). The interest of such documents for historians is clear: these are quotidian documents, many reflecting the interactions of non-elite people; preserved in non-Jewish hands, they remained fixed, without undergoing the process of transmission, selection, and manipulation often seen in other Jewish sources; and they afford access to a social stratum beyond the Rabbinic elite that  produced much of the medieval Hebrew material still extant.

My talk will be an exercise in transnational history, comparing such bilingual Jewish charters from Spain in the tenth and eleventh centuries to others from thirteenth-century England, fourteenth-century Germany, and fifteenth-century Austria. I will be focusing on the charters' most outstanding trait: their bilingualism. Hence, special attention will be given to two criteria, the visual and the oral. The relationships between each pair of languages will be examined via consideration of the mise-en-page—the layout of the two languages on the parchment or in the book of records—as well as through speculation on the oral interactions that stood behind the bilingual documents.  

About our speaker:

Micha J. Perry (Ph.D. Hebrew University, 2008) is a senior lecturer of medieval Jewish history at the department of Jewish History at the University of Haifa. His first book, Tradition and Transformation: Knowledge Transmission among Medieval Jews, was published in Hebrew in 2010; his second book, Eldad’s Travels: A Journey from the Lost Tribes to the Present, was published by Routledge in 2019. He has been a Visiting Lecturer in Yale‘s Judaic Studies Program and History Department and is currently a Fellow at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at Penn.  

Talks will be held live, in person, in the Class of 78 Pavilion, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. They will also be available via Zoom (please contact Aylin Malcolm for details). All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on future talks, 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, Emeritus), 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.