This project has a long history and could never have been brought to fruition without the help of many individuals I would like to thank. This text started out as a Ph.D. dissertation at Tel Aviv University under the inspiring supervision of Tova Rosen to whom I owe my entry into the world of medieval Hebrew poetry and whose classes, research and exemplary character profoundly influenced my academic choices and path. I am also thankful to her for encouraging me to turn my thesis into a book centered primarily on its analytical parts. I completely rewrote and enhanced the text with new material and many more analyses and details. Each chapter was then translated into English by the skilled craftsman Oran Moked who was always willing to discuss language issues and was attentive to my whims. I especially admire his translations of the poems, which, I believe, preserve their vitality and original flavor.

I am grateful to the Israel Science Foundation for its generous support of this project and specifically to Nuchi Scheiner, the scientific director of Social Sciences and Humanities, for all her help. Most of the project was written during my first few years at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where I am privileged to teach and conduct my research. I am thankful to my friends at the Department of Hebrew literature, and to the department heads during these years, Tamar Alexander, Haviva Isahy, Yigal Schwartz and Hanna Soker-Schwager for their collegial and institutional support. I especially wish to thank my colleagues in the Division of medieval Hebrew poetry, Haviva Iashy and Peter Lehnardt who showed special interest in this project and shared their wisdom and experience with me. My thanks, too, to my teachers, colleagues and friends who read and commented on sections of my work over the years or shared their thoughts and insights with me in long and fruitful discussions: Tova Beeri, Ross Brann, Dana Fishkin, Chanita Goodblatt, Elisabeth Hollender, Matti Huss, Israel Levin, Shira Maziel, David Rotman, Hadas Shabat Nadir, Nili Shalev, Wout van Bekkum and Joachim Yeshaya. The anonymous reviewers of this volume are commended for their valuable comments, which helped me to improve my work significantly. Nufar Rashkas and Ailor Porat did important indexing and bibliographical work, which is highly appreciated. I am also indebted to Sigal Edri and Ilanit Cohen for their administrative assistance and guidance and to Katelyn Chin, Meghan Connolly and Judy Pereira from Brill for their diligent supervision of the book production process.

Finally I would like to thank my dear family: my parents Sara and Rafi Kfir from whom I learned (not always willingly) the love of the written word and who, together with my beloved grandfather Eliezer Goldflam, have shepherded my professional development with care and high interest. I am thankful to my parents-in-law Sapira and Avraham Cohen for their constant material and moral support. All my love to my daughters Dana and Tamara who fill my life with joy and satisfaction and who do not know how many times they lifted up my spirit when I was bogged down, and to Shiri, my beautiful wife, partner and friend—I could not have done this without you.