”ושכל יצא משכל “(Mishley Shu’alim by Berechiah ha-Naqdan, France 12th century)

Wisdom and Moralizing Literature in a Multicultural Journey in the Middle Ages, Between Oral and Written Traditions

Event date: November 16 - November 19, 2015

Organizers:
    Tovi Bibring (Bar-Ilan University)
    Revital Refael Vivante (Bar-Ilan University)

     

    Berechiah ben R. Natronai ha-naqdan’s collection of fables, Mishlei Shu'alim (Fox Fables), is the largest compilation of medieval Aesopic fables in Hebrew. It is extant in twelve manuscripts dating from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Probably written in France toward the end of the twelfth century, this work belongs to the rich corpus of fable literature that was in vogue in medieval Europe, especially in England and France. Fables are no stranger to Jewish culture; they are found as rhetorical and didactic tools in Scripture, in Talmudic homilies, and in Hebrew secular literature. The large majority of Berechiah’s fables, however are derived from Latin and vernacular translations of the Greek fables attributed to the legendary Aesop. The history of European fables from antiquity to the Middle Ages is complex, as it involves both oral and lost written sources. Berechiah ha-cripnaqdan’s Mishlei Shu'alim is a vivid testimony to the circulation of such sources throughout the Middle Ages and to the popularity of such fables. Berechiah’s main sources were the works of Avianus and Marie de France, but there are indications in his fables of other possible sources and vestiges of earlier literary traditions.

     

    The goal of our  workshop would be to explore the book’s literary and cultural history, and particularly the diverse cultural backgrounds of its stories; examine the subtle moral messages and their evolution and variations in the East and in the West in the various religions, study the poetical expressions in a double perspective, respectively and intertextually, that trace and interpret the proverbial material in Latin and Arabic (and other languages, too), as well as the possible Indian influences; shed light on medieval European cultural and belletristic migrations and interchangeabilities between Jews and Christians.  We wish to create a forum of vibrant discussion and an exchange of ideas about the possible ways in which belletristic works (with special emphasis on somewhat neglected Hebrew texts) migrated between different and distant communities in the East and in the West in medeival and early modern Europe.