Afterword: Jewish Romance in Search of Identity

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FEW LITERARY-CULTURAL GENRES have achieved such an abundance of studies as that of the romance. Attempts have been made by literary scholars, historians, anthropologists, and those from other disciplines to draw the boundaries and understand the contexts in which romances were created and developed. As the main goal of the present collection of critical essays is to suggest new venues for the study of Jewish medieval and early modern romance, it will be sufficient to turn, if needed, to that large body of research, for theoretical and historical questions and the study of specific romances.The multitude of definitions of medieval romance literature can be roughly divided into two subgroups. In the first one are the historical definitions of the genre, which could be summarized as: “tales of chivalric adventure written in romanz (French medieval vernacular) in Christian Europe between the twelfth and the sixteenth centuries.” The second group of definitions is mainly generic: they do not bond the romance to a specific period, space, language, or ethos (for example, chivalric or courtly culture), but to certain literary characteristics which could be achieved in any time, place, and language. The first group of definitions cannot, of course, be applied to Jewish culture, which was present on the margins or even outside the historical definition of romance. Jews rarely wrote in languages other than Hebrew (and Yiddish), and were mostly excluded from participating in the chivalric world.The question whether medieval or early modern Jews were familiar with romance literature is no longer, in the present state of research, unanswerable. This has been established in previous studies from decades ago, and after the present collection, it has now become a fact that Jews knew romance. The paths by which medieval Jews were familiar with romance literature were wide-ranging—reading romances in vernacular languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Provençal), listening to oral storytelling or singing of narratives in town markets, during long voyages of merchants on sea and land, or while working in city workshops and farms. Even the question of what attracted Jews to romance literature is no longer an interesting one. We have begun to understand medieval Jews as human beings, and not only religious objects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedieval and Early Modern Jewish Romance
EditorsCaroline Gruenbaum, Annegret Oehme
PublisherAmsterdam University Press BV
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781802701333
ISBN (Print)9781802700121
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameJewish Engagements


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