David Stern

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20132014 Forum on Violence

David Stern

Moritz and Josephine Berg Professor of Classical Hebrew Literature
Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations

The Burning of the Talmud and Other Acts of Violence Against Jewish Books

My project is a history of the burning of the Babylonian Talmud (along with other acts of violence against books, like censorship) in Western Europe, between the years 1244 and 1553. During these years, the Talmud— with the Hebrew Bible, the central text of the classical Jewish canon— was repeatedly put on trial, condemned, and burned. This act of violence essentially substituted the book for the people, and as I hope to show, came to bear both a ritualistic and culturally symbolic meaning that went beyond far beyond the book itself. In the course of the fellowship, I hope to write a draft of a chapter for a work-in-progress on the history of the Talmud as a book.