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Conversion and Narrative

Reading and Religious Authority in Medieval Polemic

Ryan Szpiech

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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Title Page

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pp. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-iv

Dedication Page

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pp. v-v

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-ix

Note on Names, Titles, Citations, and Transliteration

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pp. xi-xi

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Introduction: Conversion and History

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pp. 1-29

There was once a Jew who, well into his adult life, began to think deeply about the trials of his people. One day, he entered a synagogue and, with lamentation and bitterness in his heart, began to pray, “Lord God, I beg you, have mercy on our trials. What is the cause of your anger ...

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1: From Peripety to Prose: Tracing the Pauline and Augustinian Paradigms

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pp. 30-58

In medieval Christian sources, conversion very often takes the form of a narrative, in particular a narrative derived from biblical, largely New Testament, models. Conversion itself, as a textual drama of transformation, might be considered a Judeo-Christian invention of the late ...

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2: Alterity and Auctoritas: Reason and the Twelfth-Century Expansion of Authority

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pp. 60-91

In the beginning of his Little Work on His Conversion, written sometime in the middle decades of the twelfth century, Judah/Herman, the “former Jew” (quondam iudaeus), as he is called, observes the following in a letter to a certain Henry that precedes his conversion story: “I ...

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3: In the Shadow of the Khazars: Narrating Conversion to Judaism

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pp. 92-120

Before turning to what I have identified as the second effect (after the narration of conversion) of the twelfth-century shift in auctoritas—an intensified focus on language as a marker of authenticity—I wish to turn away briefly from the subject of conversion to Christianity. Looking ...

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4: A War of Words: Translating Authority in Thirteenth-Century Polemic

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pp. 121-142

On Friday, July 20, 1263, a converted Jew named Fra Pau Cristià (Friar Paul Christian), and also possibly called Saule (Saul) before his conversion, stood in the Royal Palace of Barcelona before two great men, King Jaume of Aragon and the great rabbi of Girona, Nahmanides.1 ...

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5: The Jargon of Authenticity: Abner of Burgos/Alfonso of Valladolid and the Paradox of Testimony

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pp. 143-173

Between the extreme and voluminous examples of Ramon Martí and Ramon Llull, the upheavals occasioned by the incorporation of Aristotelian logic into traditional polemical thought had run their course and driven the pursuit of authority, both through text and logical argument ...

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6: The Supersessionist Imperative: Islam and the Historical Drama of Revelation

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pp. 174-214

Deep within Abner/Alfonso’s staged debate between Christian and Jew in the Teacher of Righteousness, the Teacher makes the argument that one important indicator of Christian truth is its wide acceptance by all people, even those of other religions. He explains, “All the gentiles of ...

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Conclusion: Polemic as Narrative

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pp. 227-228

There was once a queen who ruled a strange and distant island. She was a good and just queen but had not heard of any world religion. Her people, while upright by nature, lived without laws. One night, as she lay awake in her bed thinking with confusion on the true path, as she often tried ...


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pp. 227-228


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pp. 229-266


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pp. 267-297


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pp. 299-308

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pp. 309-311

My thinking on narrative and its relationship to time grew out of my conversations with Michael Palencia-Roth at the University of Illinois- UC, and I am deeply grateful for the ideas and inspiration he provided. The germ of this specific project began as part of my research at Yale ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812207613
E-ISBN-10: 0812207610
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244717
Print-ISBN-10: 0812244710

Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 822017933
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Conversion and Narrative

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Apologetics -- History -- Middle Ages, 600-1500.
  • Conversion -- Christianity -- History -- To 1500.
  • Religious biography -- History and criticism.
  • Identification (Religion) -- History -- To 1500.
  • Christian converts from Judaism -- History.
  • Jewish converts from Christianity -- History.
  • Muslim converts from Christianity -- History.
  • Christianity and other religions -- Judaism.
  • Christianity and other religions -- Islam.
  • Judaism -- Relations -- Christianity.
  • Islam -- Relations -- Christianity.
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