Call for the formation of a research group “Between Jewish languages: Literature, Thought and History”

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The Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem, The Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the German Studies Program, Stanford University

Born in the growing field of thought and research surrounding the German-Hebrew dialogue, this research group now aspires to broaden its scope, extending it to other languages and additional historical, literary, and cultural points of contact Our discussions will center on questions of multilingualism, cultural meeting points, and translation arising in texts written in diverse Jewish languages – from East and West. They will focus on manifestations of the interaction between different languages in literary texts, not only overt and explicit, but also the more obscure and indirect correlations occurring in syntactical structures, ways of thinking, semantic history, and in the various undercurrents running through the literary text.

The evolution of the “German-Hebrew” discourse as a research field was influenced by currents such as multiculturalism and post-colonialism, and by changes in translation theory that deeply impacted German-Jewish studies during the 1990s. The increasing focus on multilingualism in the areas of cultural studies and German studies led to more intense scrutiny of monolingual texts written by bilingual writers in German and in Hebrew that created parallel texts offering fertile ground for comparative research. Conversely, readings of multilingual texts in German-Hebrew studies focus primarily on the use of Hebrew words, sentences and concepts in German texts. These studies have appeared predominantly in English and they represent part of a wider discourse on Jewish-German cultural history. However, few studies address the incidence of German words in Hebrew texts or the various less discernible ways in which the two languages influence one another and the frequent involvement of additional languages in this encounter.

We seek to focus on the dash (-), that is, the point of contact, the rift and the lines of convergence between the languages; to probe deeper and extend the discussion beyond the preoccupation with German and Hebrew. We wish to scrutinize the dash per se within the world of Jewish literatures, not necessarily as a link between just two elements, but as a signifier of the complex relationship between languages and cultures beyond the boundaries that separate them.

Scholars who deal in a “third” language (Arabic, Persian, French, Spanish, Ladino, Yiddish, Polish, Russian, etc.) that may be relevant to this encounter are invited to join the research group so as to discuss the topic in a broad comparative context embracing a variety of perspectives and disciplines such as comparative literature, linguistics, philosophy of language, and cultural history.

The research group is scheduled to meet once a month during the 2020-2021 academic year and welcomes doctoral and post-doctoral students from Israel and abroad who wish to participate in this conversation. The meetings will be held online on Wednesdays at 20:00 IST.

If you would like to participate, please submit an application outlining a research proposal and a “statement of intent” (1-2 pages each) by December 15, 2020, to the Leo Baeck Institute’s email address:

Group coordinators:

Dr. Jan Kühne, Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Dr. Gilad Shiram, Stanford University

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