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Yerushah Lecture 2016

The poetry of Judaism:

Translating a precious heritage

Nicholas de Lange

The historical encounter with Islam and the Arabic language was enormously challenging, enriching and liberating for Jewish thinkers and writers, and nowhere perhaps is this encounter more attractively seen than in the Hebrew poetry of medieval Spain. Adopting Arabic poetic conventions and metres, Hebrew poets devised new ways of expressing their personal, national and religious aspirations and complaints, ingeniously exploiting biblical language, and sometimes blending the erotic and the theological in a manner reminiscent of the Persian Sufi poets. Their poems are distinctively Jewish, while typifying in some ways the Arabic culture of Andalus.

How can this treasure-chamber of the Jewish heritage be unlocked for present and future generations who cannot read medieval Hebrew? Is it even possible to convey to modern English readers the complexities of medieval poetics and the layers of allusion?

In this lecture Nicholas de Lange, who has devoted a long double career to medieval Hebrew studies and to translation, will bring these two interests together to reflect on the challenges posed by the task of putting these poems into English. He will illustrate his talk with examples from his own published and unpublished translations.

Previous Yerushah Lectures: http://www.divinity.cam.ac.uk/research/confseminars/named-lectures/yerushah-lecture

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