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Material Texts: David Stern (Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Harvard): “The Topography of the Talmud Page”
Monday, October 9, 2017 - 5:15pm to 7:00pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center
6th Floor of Van-Pelt Library

The iconic visual image in classical Jewish literary culture is that of a page, and no page is more iconic than that of the Talmud, with its core text in the center of the page awash in an ocean of commentary.  In this talk I will trace the history of this page-format from its origins in the twelfth-century Glossa Ordinariathrough its publication in the editio princeps of the Talmud by the Christian printer Daniel Bomberg in Venice in 1521-23, and discuss its impact upon the study of the Talmud as well as the light it sheds on the work’s place in Western culture.   

David Stern is the Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Hebrew and Jewish Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and the Director of Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies.  Before moving to Harvard in 2015, he was a professor of classical Hebrew literature at Penn for thirty years.  

He has been the recipient of many grants and awards including a junior fellowship in Harvard’s Society of Fellows and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute, the ACLS, the NEH, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also been a visiting professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Princeton University, the University of Washington, and Nanjing University. 

The overall subject of Stern’s scholarship is Jewish literary creativity within its larger historical and cultural contexts, with specializations in the history of Biblical interpretation, classical Jewish narrative, and the history of the Jewish book.  He is the author or editor of fifteen books including Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic LiteratureRabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Jewish Literature,The Monk’s HaggadahJewish Literary Cultures: The Ancient Period, and the forthcoming Jewish Literary Cultures: The Medieval and Early Modern Periods.  His most recent book, which appeared this month, is The Jewish Bible: A Material History (University of Washington Press).