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Jewish Translation and Cultural Transfer in Early Modern Europe
Funder: European CommissionProject code: 801861 Call for proposal: ERC-2018-STG
Funded under: H2020 | ERC | ERC-STG Overall Budget: 1,496,900 EURFunder Contribution: 1,496,900 EUR
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Research data: No

Contemporary scholarship has often envisioned modernity as a kind of immense cultural earthquake, originating somewhere in western or central Europe, and then gradually propagating throughout the continent. This massive upheaval is said to have shaken the very foundations of every culture it frequented, subsequently eliminating the world which once was, to make way for a new age. This project offers a new understanding of modernization, not as a radical break with tradition, but as the careful importation of new ideas by often timid, almost inadvertent innovators. The project focuses on the rich corpus of translations of non-Jewish texts into Jewish languages, which developed during the early modern period. Largely neglected by modern scholars, these translations played a pivotal role in fashioning Jewish culture from the sixteenth century into modern times. Jewish translators were never merely passive recipients of their non-Jewish sources; they mistranslated both deliberately and accidentally, added and omitted, and harnessed their sources to meet their own unique agendas. Throughout the process of translation then, a new corpus was created, one that was distinctly Jewish in character, but closely corresponded with the surrounding majority culture. JEWTACT offers the first comprehensive study of the entire gamut of these early modern Jewish translations, exposing a hitherto unexplored terrain of surprising intercultural encounters which took place upon the advent of modernity—between East and West, tradition and innovation, Christians and Jews. The project posits translation as the primary and most ubiquitous mechanism of Christian-Jewish cultural transfer in early modern Europe. In so doing, I wish to revolutionize our understanding of the so-called early modern “Jewish book,” revealing its intensely porous, collaborative and innovative nature, and to offer a new paradigm of Jewish modernization and cultural exchange.

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