Review of a Sephardic version of the Dance of Death in a Jewish Tradition (Ms. Parma 2666)

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The Dance of Death according to the Castilian Tradition in the Parma Manuscript (Ms. Parma 2666) is a documentation of a unique medieval version – one of the earliest textual witnesses of this literary genre. Through it, we are indirectly introduced by a Jewish copier to a Christian dramatic-theatrical version of the Dance of Death from Spain the mid-15th century. The availability of this textual witness, in Hebrew script, of the Dance of Death – a genre that by itself, in the broad scope of its artistic aspects, is fundamentally identified with the Christian cultural space in Europe – raises questions and arouses curiosity with regard to the nature of their interrelations. In the meeting, we examined how a theoretical relation was formulated in the research discourse between the Parma version of the Dance of Death and its Jewish-Sephardic cultural world. In addition, we read several sections of this literary piece in order to become acquainted with its poetic uniqueness – both in terms of the dialogues between Death and its victims, and in terms of a variety of strategic aspects in the literary structure of the dance.

The productive discourse that emerged in our workshop focused on the need to reexamine the expressions of Jewish languages in literature, philosophy, and history. It also highlighted the need to develop research in distinguishing the use of the vernacular, in its poetic form, as an effective channel for conveying moral and theological messages, both critical and sophisticated, as opposed to the homiletical discourse more frequently used by theologians.

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