Conversion of Herman the Jew Autobiography, History, and Fiction in the Twelfth Century

ISBN-10: 0812222199
ISBN-13: 9780812222197
Edition: 2010
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Description: Sometime toward the middle of the twelfth century, it is supposed, an otherwise obscure figure, born a Jew in Cologne and later ordained as a priest in Cappenberg in Westphalia, wrote a Latin account of his conversion to Christianity. Known as  More...

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Book details

Copyright year: 2010
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
Publication date: 7/31/2012
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 320
Size: 5.75" wide x 8.75" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.188
Language: English

Sometime toward the middle of the twelfth century, it is supposed, an otherwise obscure figure, born a Jew in Cologne and later ordained as a priest in Cappenberg in Westphalia, wrote a Latin account of his conversion to Christianity. Known as theOpusculum, this book purportedly by "Herman, the former Jew" may well be the first autobiography to be written in the West after theConfessionsof Saint Augustine. It may also be something else entirely.InThe Conversion of Herman the Jewthe eminent French historian Jean-Claude Schmitt examines this singular text and the ways in which it has divided its readers. Where some have taken it as an authentic conversion narrative, others have asked whether it is not a complete fabrication forged by Christian clerics. For Schmitt the question is poorly posed. The work is at once true and fictional, and the search for its lone author—whether converted Jew or not—fruitless. Herman may well have existed and contributed to the writing of his life, but theOpusculumis a collective work, perhaps framed to meet a specific institutional agenda.With agility and erudition, Schmitt examines the text to explore its meaning within the society and culture of its period and its participation in both a Christian and Jewish imaginary. What can it tell us about autobiography and subjectivity, about the function of dreams and the legitimacy of religious images, about individual and collective conversion, and about names and identities? InThe Conversion of Herman the JewSchmitt masterfully seizes upon the debates surrounding theOpusculum(the text of which is newly translated for this volume) to ponder more fundamentally the ways in which historians think and write.

Jean-Claude Schmitt is Director of Studies at the �%cole des Hautes �%tudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

Introduction
Fiction and Truth
Medieval Autobiography
The Dream and Its Interpretation
Conversion to Images
Baptism and Name
"A New Era of Conversion"
Conclusion
Extract from the Vita of Godfried, Count of Cappenburg
Herman the Former Jew: Short Work on the Subject of His Conversion
Notes
Index

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