Our Place in al-Andalus: Kabbalah,Philosophy, Literature in Arab Jewish Letters(Cultural Memory in the Present)

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The year 1492 is only the last in a series of "ends" that inform the representation of medieval Spain in modern Jewish historical and literary discourses. These ends simultaneously mirror the traumas of history and shed light on the discursive process by which hermetic boundaries are set between periods, communities, and texts. This book addresses the representation of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as the end of al-Andalus (Islamic Spain). Here, the end works to locate and separate Muslim from Christian Spain, Jews from Arabs, philosophy from Kabbalah, Kabbalah from literature, and texts from contexts.

The book offers a reading of texts that emerge from its Andalusi, Jewish, and Arabic cultural sphere: Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed; the major text of Kabbalah, the Zohar; and the Arabic rhymed prose narrative of Ibn al-Astarkuwi. The author argues that these texts are written in a language that disrupts the possibility of locating it in a pre-existing cultural situation, a recognizable literary tradition, or a particular genre.

At stake are issues—texts and contexts—that have gained particular urgency in the writings of such recent thinkers as Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, Giorgio Agamben, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Avital Ronell. The book reads the place and taking place of language, interrogating the notion of disappearing contexts and the view that language is derivative of its true place, the context that, having ended, is mourned as silent and lost.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This is an original and extraordinarily refined work on a question that lies somewhere in the space between history and philosophy. . . . The author handles with equal ease the range of sources, both modern and medieval. His extremely elegant organization of the material reflects, at a very advanced level, a sense of style commensurate with the sophistication of his thinking.”—Maria Rosa Menocal, Yale University
Although at first glance Maimonides' , the narratives of Ibn al-Astarkuwi, and the (the major text of the Jewish Kabbalah) seem to have little in common, they all emerged from the common cultural sphere of the Islamic Spain and were written as that sphere was coming to an end. Anidjar (Hebrew literature, Columbia U.) argues that they all placed themselves within the context of that loss, but that the way in which they were written was designed to deny the borders of the lost sphere. He offers three readings of the texts, examining their rhetoric and representations of "the end." Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804741217
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,072,740
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gil Anidjar is Associate Professor of Hebrew Literature at Columbia University

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Declinations of Context in Arab Jewish Letters 1
1 Maimonides, Dalala, Midrash 10
2 "Our Place in al-Andalus, [actual symbol not reproducible][actual symbol not reproducible][actual symbol not reproducible]" 57
3 The Silent Voice of the Friend: Andalusi Topographies of Scholem's Conversations (Mourning Mysticism) 102
4 Reading, Out of Context: Zohar and/as Maqama 166
Pt. 1 Zohar 171
Ibn al-Astarkuwi's Maqama "On Poetry and Prose" 219
Pt. 2 Parting Words 229
Notes 249
Bibliography 307
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