Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Literacy and Inter-Disciplinary Studies

I just spent the day reading in the Humanities Library on Mount Scopus. Primarily, I was brushing up on recent articles and books that addressed the image and status of Jews in Medieval Europe, especially in art and literature. There's alot of really goodv work being done in this field and I strongly recommend anyone involved in Jewish medieval studies to browse around the medieval art and literature journals for new insights. Within reason, it's a very good way of entering into the mentalite (to use a shop worn phrase) of the period.

At the same time, once again I walked away with a sense of real displacement. An ever greater number of Jewish scholars are functionally illiterate in Hebrew (ie modern Hebrew), never mind not having a clue as to classical Jewish sources, never mind something so central as Halakha. The result is deficient historical analysis (at best), and distorted conclusions (at worst). As the Rambam says (Guide III, 51) once you start of in the wrong direction, you walk right out of the kingdom.

I think that this situation obligates rabbinically literate historians to push for inter-disciplinary initiatives and group research projects. (Of course, training more graduate students is also important).

No comments: