Creating Fictional Worlds

Peshaṭ-Exegesis and Narrativity in Rashbam's Commentary on the Torah


Author: Hanna Liss
R. Samuel ben Meir (b. 1085) wrote his Torah commentary at a point in time when the French masters of Bible collected their glossae, but he wrote it also at the point in time that we today consider to be the turning point in ‘lay literacy,’ when the Anglo-Norman aristocracy patronized the production of romances. In the first half of the 12th century, Northern France was a vibrant spot. It was an era in which composing, reading, and listening to narratives and stories intensified as a complex cultural phenomenon. This book presents the idea that Rashbam tried to compete with this new intellectual movement, claiming that the literary quality of the biblical texts was at least as good as that of the nascent courtly romances, or even on a par with one another.

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Hanna Liss, Ph.D. (1995) in Jewish Studies, University of Berlin, is Professor of Bible and Jewish Exegesis at the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg, Germany. She has published extensively on medieval Jewish Exegesis and Ashkenazic pietism including Raschi und sein Erbe (Winter, 2007) and El'asar ben Yehuda von Worms, Hilkhot ha-Kavod (Mohr, 1997)
"An important contribution to the study of medieval Jewish exegesis that should be considered by anyone interested in the peshat tradition of Northern France."

Pinchas Roth, graduate student in the Talmud Department at Hebrew University, Association of Jewish Libraries, September/October 2011, Volume 1, No. 3. Jerusalem
Chapter One: The Northern French School of Biblical Exegesis: The Status Quaestionis in Modern Scholarship
Chapter Two: Reevaluating Biblical Commentaries in Northern France
Chapter Three: R. Samuel ben Meïr (Rashbam): His Torah Commentary and Its Transmission
Chapter Four: The Torah and the Art of Narrative
Chapter Five: Rashbam’s Commentaries between רומנץ and ‘Romance'
Chapter Six: Peshaṭ and Halakhah
Chapter Seven: The Old French Glosses and Rashbam’s Exegesis ‘According to the Ways of the World’
Conclusion: Rabbis, Knights, and the Excitement of Medieval Adolescence
All those interested in Medieval Jewish literature and culture, Northern French Jewry, the development of peshaṭ-exegesis, the matters of reading and literacy, glosses, as well as Medieval philologists, theologians, and historians.