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Between Subversion and Containment: Flavius Josephus, the Jews, and 1492


April 15, 2015
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
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Pigott Hall, Building 260, Room 216

Theoretical Perspectives of the Middle Ages workshop with Julian Weiss (King’s College, London). Co-sponsored by the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Department of Religious Studies, Taube Center for Jewish Studies, the Department of History, Iberian and Latin American Cultures, and the Europe Center.

On March 27, 1492, a few days before the Edict that expelled the Jews from Spain, the royal chronicler Alfonso de Palencia (1423-1492) published his Castilian translations of two works by the famous Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War and Against Apion. Palencia’s volume, Guerra judaica con los libros contra Appion, thus exemplifies the tension between two facets of Josephus’s writing: his fierce critique of Jewish sectarianism and stubborn resistance to Imperial order and his eloquent defence of their religious and cultural traditions. This paper explores the cultural and political significance of these Spanish translations in the light of the events leading up to 1492 and it considers whether Palencia appropriated this Romanized Jewish historian in order to open up a space for religious minorities in the new imperial order ushered in by the Catholic Monarchs. The paper reads Palencia’s translations against other contemporary texts by and about Jews and conversos and considers the marginalia of sixteenth-century readers found in extant copies of the 1492 edition.

The broader issues raised include: the ambivalent alignment between the ‘intellectual’ and the ‘State’ (both terms need to be historicised); anti-judaism as a ‘way of thinking’ (to borrow David Nirenberg’s term); the meaning and limits of early modern tolerance.

Julian Weiss is Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Spanish Studies at King’s College, London.  He is the author of The Poet’s Art: Literary Theory in Castile, c. 1400-60 (1990) and The ‘Mester de clerecía’: Intellectuals and Ideologies in Thirteenth-Century Castile (2006), which was awarded the annual international book prize from the journal La Corónica. He has also published many articles and edited or co-edited several anthologies. His current projects include a book version of Núñez’s commentary on Juan de Mena, and a study of the emergence of the concept of literature in the late medieval and Early Modern periods.

For more information, contact Prof. Marisa Galvez.