This is an updated English translation of my book that initially appeared in German under the title Herkunft und Textkultur: Über jüdische Erfahrungswelten in romanischen Literaturen 1499–1627 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010). In 2011, the book was awarded the Geisteswissenschaften International prize, which provides funding for German-English translations of publications in the humanities and thus aims to contribute to the dissemination of humanities research from Germany. I wish to thank the Börsenverin des Deutschen Buchhandels, Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, VG WORT, and the Federal Foreign Office for awarding my book this opportunity.
This book grew out of my work at the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University. My greatest thanks are due to Dan Diner, director of the Simon Dubnow Institute and professor of modern history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who generously reviewed the manuscript and helped me understand the tectonics of early modern Jewish history. Both in method and scope, this book is the result of all that I’ve learned from him. Thanks to his achievements, the Simon Dubnow Institute is a true community of scholars engaged in the collective task of creating a distinctive approach to Jewish studies. This book would not have taken shape without him and my colleagues and friends at the Dubnow Institute. I’m also very grateful to Joachim Küpper, professor of Romance and comparative literature at Freie Universität Berlin, who helped me sharpen my methodological approach. Since I first had the privilege to work with Joachim as my doctoral advisor while writing on Jorge Luis Borges, he has consistently pushed me to develop my ideas (p.viii) further. Joachim read and reviewed more than one draft of this book and gave me important insights about my theoretical and historical presuppositions, for which I am very thankful.
I would like to thank my committee, Claudius Armbruster, Dan Diner, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Andreas Kablitz, Katharina Niemeyer, and Barbara Potthast. In particular, I wish to thank Katharina Niemeyer for supporting the research from the very beginning. I greatly appreciate the help Andreas Kablitz offered with regard to the book’s methodological orientation, especially regarding the chapters on Michel de Montaigne and Leone Ebreo. I’m very thankful to Sepp Gumbrecht for his stimulating comments on this book in particular and for our discussions regarding the future of the study of Romance literatures and languages in general; I always learn a great deal. Barbara Potthast, chair of the Iberian and Latin American Division of the Universität zu Köln’s History Department, offered me valuable insights, as did Claudius Armbruster, director of the Portuguese-Brazilian Institute at the Universität zu Köln; I thank them both very much.
I have found an exemplary translator in Insa Kummer. I’m deeply thankful that she shared her expertise in language, grammar, style, and culture with me. She is an author’s dream translator in every respect, and I’m very grateful for her thorough, incisive, and intellectually stimulating work and support. This book has also benefited greatly from Christine Gever’s thorough and detail-focused copyediting. She has helped me to coordinate and think through the various aspects of this book, for which I’m very thankful.
My research assistant Lucrezia Delphine Guiot meticulously perused the English translations of the Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese originals of the literary texts and helped me to find an English Midrash Esther Rabbah in Berlin. I greatly appreciate her much-needed help. I would also like to thank my colleague and friend Victoria Prilutzky for allowing me to use her photo of Toledo for the cover.
As this book spans various disciplines, many colleagues and friends read and reviewed the manuscript from their different perspectives, (p.ix) in particular, Natasha Gordinsky (University of Haifa), Omar Kamil (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen), Elisabeth Gallas (Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Arndt Engelhardt, Petra Klara Gamke-Breitschopf and Nicolas Berg from the Simon Dubnow Institute, and Dieter Burdorf (Universität Leipzig). A long conversation at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin with David Nirenberg (University of Chicago) helped me to understand the complicated research tradition on Spanish-Jewish history and culture, for which I am very thankful.
At Freie Universität Berlin, I’m enjoying a vibrant and encouraging research environment, for which I owe gratitude to our dean, Doris Kolesch, and to Freie Universität’s Center for International Cooperation. I have been lucky to enjoy the friendship and continuing dialogue with Emilia Merino Claros (Universität Wuppertal), Andrea Weidenfeld (Köln), Natascha Pomino (Universität Zürich), Carola Hilfrich (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), and Paola Traverso (Freie Universität Berlin) for many years. I’m very grateful for that privilege.
I want to express my deep appreciation to my successive editors in the Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture series at Stanford University Press, Aron Rodrigue and Steven Zipperstein, and David Biale and Sarah Abrevaya Stein. And my most sincere thanks also go to the staff at the press: working with Kate Wahl (publishing director and editor-in-chief) and production editor Gigi Mark has been a joy.