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PennX: In the Margins of a Medieval Jewish Prayer Book: What Can Physical Manuscripts Tell Us about History?

This course is a case study of how a particular manuscript, a Jewish prayer book for high holidays, can provide historians with vital insights about Jewish communal life, the way a manuscript can help us map cultural change and continuity in the Middle Ages, and the history of the physical object itself. Elisabeth Hollender (Goethe University, Frankfurt) guides students through the examination of a late 13th century manuscript from Western Ashkenaz, focusing on how the manifold signs of change left in the manuscript illustrate and illuminate the history of a Jewish community in the Rhineland.

In the Margins of a Medieval Jewish Prayer Book:  What Can Physical Manuscripts Tell Us about History?
4 weeks
1–2 hours per week
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There is one session available:

After a course session ends, it will be archivedOpens in a new tab.
Starts Feb 22

About this course

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The course asks the following questions (and more):

  • How can we locate a particular manuscript within a larger liturgical tradition?

  • What sorts of information can be gained about a community by looking at a manuscript as a physical object?

  • What do manuscripts tell us about the experience of medieval Jewish liturgical practice?

  • What physical changes to manuscripts present problems and opportunities for interpretation?

At a glance

  • Institution: PennX
  • Subject: History
  • Level: Advanced
  • Prerequisites:

    There are no prerequisites for taking this course. However, we encourage learners to explore edX DemoX if they are unfamiliar with the edX platform.

    Though this course can stand alone, it is the fifth part of a series exploring what can be learned from studying Jewish manuscripts. Part 1 is by Professor Y. Tzvi Langermann (PennX–Katz1.1x), part 2 is by Professor Alessandro Guetta (PennX–Katz1.2x), part 3 is by Professor Fabrizio Lelli (PennX–Katz1.3x), and part 4 is by Professor Judith Schlanger (PennX-Katz1.4x).

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English

What you'll learn

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  • Acquire knowledge of medieval Asheknazi (originating in the German-speaking lands) and surrounding liturgical traditions
  • Understand the process of using a manuscript as a material object to understand the history of religious culture
  • Gain familiarity with a particular manuscript (CAJS Rare MS 382) and its unique features and problems

1. An Introduction to Jewish Prayer Books

2. What Page Layout Can Teach Us about How the Book Was Used

3. Jewish Geography and the Different Prayer Rites

4. Times Were Changing—How about the Manuscript? Reading the Notes Jotted in the Margins

5. Fire and Theft! Interpreting the Scars on the Physical Manuscript

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