The Andalusi Literary and Intellectual Tradition

My monograph, The Andalusi Literary and Intellectual Tradition: The Role of Arabic in Judah ibn Tibbon’s Ethical Will, has just been published in the Indiana University Press’ Series in Sephardi and Mizrahi Studies. (Scroll down for an abstract.)

Andalusi Literary_SS17_cover.jpg

The book is a cultural-historical study of a twelfth- and thirteenth-century family of translators and the literary and cultural aspects of their program of translation that developed after its head and founder, Judah ibn Tibbon, left his native Granada for a self-imposed exile in the south of France after the advent of Almohad rule in the Iberian Peninsula. The book argues that one of the driving forces behind Judah’s particular and anachronistic approach to translating Andalusi Arabic texts into Hebrew was his belief in Arabic as a prestige language, a belief that unifies his theory of translation with his continued reliance upon Arabic literary forms and texts in his own writing. The central focus of the investigation is development and diffusion of Judah’s attitudes towards the Arabic language, his favored artifact of al-Andalus, and his recourse to its rich literary traditions as a way to make complex religious and philosophical ideas appeal to his new, non-Arabophone, non-Arabized community in Provence, all the while preserving the idea of Arabic language and literature as an important source of cultural prestige even in the abstract. Ultimately his efforts did not take hold, but this program of the dissemination of Arabic text and culture beyond the bounds of the Islamicate world as a universal, broad, and positive societal good represents, in the first instance, a brief period in which Arabic text was used as a metonym to share a broader Iberian culture with more northerly European communities that had limited access to it, and in the second instance a tangible metaphor by which later European Jewish communities could construct a memory and fantasy of al-Andalus and its intellectual and cultural prestige.

(Updated August, 2016)

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