Recent scholarship on the history of the book as a material object holds special relevance for the study of Jewish literature, and particularly the “Jewishness” of Jewish books. Prof. Stern will discuss methodological ramifications of his recent work on the history of the Jewish book, and will present the history of the layout of the Talmud as an example of the complications of “Jewishness” when one speaks about Jewish books.


David Stern is Moritz and Josephine Berg Professor of Classical Hebrew Literature at Penn, where he served for many years as Director of the Jewish Studies Program. His areas of specialization are classical Jewish literature and religion; and the history of the Jewish book. Prof. Stern has written widely on midrash and is the author of eight books including, Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature (Harvard UP); Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Hebrew Literature (Yale UP), and Midrash and Theory: Ancient Jewish Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies (Northwestern UP). He’s currently working on a book entitled The Jewish Library: Four Jewish Classics and the Jewish Experience, which traces the history of the physical forms of the Talmud, the Rabbinic Bible, the Prayerbook, and the Passover Haggadah, and the ways in which those forms have shaped the meaning and significance of these classic Jewish books.