Over the last half-century, the critical study of the history of material texts in all its forms—from orality to the hypertext—entered the academic mainstream. In Jewish studies there have been few opportunities to consolidate the various advances made in the study of the Jewish book, and even fewer to contextualize the Jewish book fully within the history of the book at large. This fellowship offered a remedy. During this fellowship year, the fellows at CAJS studied the Jewish book as a historical agent in Jewish culture and as a medium of exchange within the larger cultures in which Jews have lived. Applicants from all disciplinary perspectives came together with the aim of uniting scholars working in the traditional fields of Jewish studies with scholars of the history of the book to study a range of topics, such as the ways that the materiality and formatting of Jewish texts from antiquity to the present shaped authorship, reception, interpretation, and transmission. On the economic front, some asked how the business of Jewish book production and the market forces of book consumption have affected Jewish life and culture. Art historians asked how the visual art in and design of Jewish books shaped reading habits, legibility, recollection, and signification. Others wondered how cultures of Jewish reading have changed over time, creating new forms of social experience and testing communal authority as well as gender boundaries. What has been the fate of Jewish books, libraries, book producers, and readers under conditions of censorship and persecution? These questions and more made this a particularly path-breaking year.




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