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The transformation of Ashkenazi Jewish culture in the Early Modern Period


Jewish studies are a crucial interdisciplinary research area of the European cultural heritage. Not all fields within it have been equally researched. There is a significant amount of Hebrew and Yiddish primary sources lying completely neglected in Czech and Moravian archives, which could greatly contribute to our knowledge of Jewish history and culture.

The applicant would cooperate with Department of Jewish Studies at Palacky University in Olomouc (Czech Republic) on mapping and interpreting this unique source material while using it in an attempt to answer his own particular research question. From the second half of the 15th century on leading intellectuals of Bohemian, Moravian, and Polish Jews gradually became interested in both the medieval tradition o f Jewish philosophy and the new scientific worldview created by the scientific revolution of the 17th century. They tried to combine and harmonize the medieval tradition with the latest results of the new sciences.

As a consequence of their activity the medieval tradition of meditative thinking became separated from science and philosophy but survived in the form of literature emerging as a new way of expressing ideas and thoughts independently of science, philosophy, and religion. Thus the early modern rabbis in Eastern Central Europe laid down the foundations of modern European Jewish culture including both scientific and artistic aspects. There is no answer in present day scholarship to the obvious question: why did this transformation of the European (Ashkenazi) Jewish culture take place.

The relevant source material has not been described systematically either. The applicant will prepare a systematic description of the relevant source material and will try to answer the basic research question by applying Michel Foucaults method of discourse-analysis. He will try to integrate the results of Czech, Hungarian, and Western scholars rarely communicating with each other.

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