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Writing Plague: Jewish Sources on the Great Italian Plague (1631)
Susan Einbinder, Professor of Hebrew & Judaic Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Connecticut
Historians have long noted the literary abundance that characterizes the Great Italian Plague of 1631, but little attention has been paid to the Jewish sources. Yet, Hebrew narrative, poetic, homiletical, and liturgical responses to the worst plague outbreak in northern Italy since the Black Death are revealing and important. These texts document efforts – administrative, medical, spiritual, practical – to meet the challenge of a pandemic. But pandemic also created a textual challenge that tested contemporary modes of self-representation under extraordinary stress. The challenges of writing plague, to paraphrase LaCapra, not only echo in these early modern authors, but are equally present in our own writing about this literature and the pandemic that inspired it.
Professor Einbinder’s research interests include: Hebrew literature from medieval Europe, especially France, Provence, Iberia; literary responses to persecution, expulsion and trauma; memory and literature; history and literature; Hebrew literature and its vernacular analogues and contexts; the writings of medieval Jewish physicians; and Hebrew translation as a medium of cultural exchange.