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AFTERWORD This issue of Prooftexts brings to conclusion a remarkable series of essays on the anthology in Jewish literature. In the course of three issues (17:1 and 2, January and May 1997; and the present volume), fifteen scholarly articles have explored the nature of anthology-making in the biblical Book of Proverbs, the Babylonian Talmud, the siddur, Midrash Rabbah, Bialik and Rawnitzki's Sefer ha'aggadah, and Berdyczewski's Mimeqor yisra'el, as well as in a host of less known anthologies, among them medieval story collections, anthological commentaries on mystical literature, early Zionist collaborations, anthologies of modern Hebrew poetry, and contemporary readers of Holocaust literature. Not that this series of articles has exhausted the fund of anthologies in Jewish literary tradition: Notably missing from the series are articles on the Pentateuch, the classical midrashic collections, anthologies of halakhic material such as the Tosefta, and modern Yiddish poetry and prose (in the original language as well as in translation). Even so, there can be little question that this series of articles has established one fact beyond all doubt—that the anthology, both as a critical category and as a literary genre, has played a formative role in the development of Jewish literature. In the introduction to the first issue in the series, I demarcated five areas of theoretical concern that seemed to me important in considering the anthology's place in Jewish literature. Without attempting to rehearse these categories in full or to sum up all the articles in the past three issues, I still think it worthwhile to review the theoretical areas briefly and highlight a few themes that have emerged in the discussion so far. The first topic of theoretical concern related to the anthology's literary form, to such questions as whether a given work is manifestly anthological in design, such as Bialik's legendary anthology, or only implicitly so, PROOFTEXTS 19 (1999): 83-S6 ß 1999 by The Johns Hopkins University Press 84DAVID STERN as in the case of a work like the Talmud; or to shift the question in a somewhat different direction, how, even in a case of an explicitly anthological work, the specific shape of a particular anthology and its singular modes of organization can influence the understanding and reception of its contents. If nothing else, our collection of essays has shown that there exist in Jewish literature, in the classical as well as modern periods, far more different types of anthologies than one would have previously imagined. Explicit anthologies such as the siddur, for example, can themselves take myriad shapes, as Joseph Tabori elaborated in his study. Further, not only can a work like the Talmud, genetically problematic as it is, be profitably considered under the sign of the anthology, but so can a novel like Berdyczewski's Miriam, as Zipora Kagan argues in her article in this issue. In fact, as Marjorie Lehman suggests in her study of the 'Ein ya'aqov, a particular anthology can even spawn an entire subgenre of anthologies, all of which follow an anthological model nowhere else attested in quite the same way. Any theoretical consideration of the anthology as a literary genre must, as a result, take into consideration the genre's formal plasticity. One cannot assume, in other words, that an anthology will always look the same. The second area of concern I noted was that of the mechanics of the anthological process—in particular, the role of the anthologizer in that process. What can we learn about the anthologizer as a literary persona and agent of production? And what can that knowledge contribute to our understanding of the meaning of an individual anthology, and of anthologies in general? Much, to be sure, in the case of modern anthologies; far less in the case of ancient works. Even so, as James Kugel suggests in his study of Wisdom literature, the anthological form of this literature is intrinsically connected to its basic assumption—namely, that there exists a divine plan behind human reality in all its chaos—and that it is understood that even if a sage might never be able to know everything, it is still possible for him to compile a collection of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3311
Print ISSN
0272-9601
Pages
pp. 83-86
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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