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The Jewish Tennis Philosopher

18Oct7:00 pm9:00 amThe Jewish Tennis Philosopher7:00 pm - 9:00 am(GMT-04:00) 148 West 4th StreetItalian Jewish Studies SeminarItalian Jewish Studies Seminar

Event Details

Roni Cohen (Columbia University, Tel Aviv University)

As early as the twelfth century, Jewish parodic literature circulated conspicuously in Europe. Nearly all main texts of the Hebrew tradition was addressed in the form of parody: the Hebrew Bible, the Mishna and the Talmud, liturgical, halakhic, and mystic literature.

In general however, Jewish philosophical literature did not become a relevant target of parodic writings. The lack of parodies of philosophical treatises is extremely interesting when taking into account that some of the earliest medieval Jewish parodic pieces were written by Jewish scholars who were familiar with philosophy and even wrote and translated philosophical treatises themselves, such as Kalonymos ben Kalonymos and Gersonides. 

Maḥol mesaḥakim (“Dance of the Players”) is, as of today, the only known Jewish medieval parody of a philosophical treatise. The text, which was written anonymously in 15th-16th century Italy, suggests an eleven-chapter-long discussion about the philosophical importance of the game of tennis. In the introduction to the text, the anonymous author explains that the book is dedicated to the author’s colleagues who are “sick of studying philosophy” and prefer to play ball in the streets. 

This talk will discuss for the first time this previously unknown volume. It will present the text’s place in the long history of Jewish parodic literature. It will also discuss Maḥol mesaḥakim‘s historical and cultural context and the text’s part in understanding early modern Jewish youth culture as well as the early stages of philosophical learning.

Refreshments will be served. Reservations: info@primolevicenter.org

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