Sites of Controversy (Medieval Encounters 18)

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Tamar R. Marvin, “Sites of Controversy: Jews Debating Philosophy between Iberia and Occitania in the Fourteenth Century,” Medieval Encounters 18 (2018), 631-348.

Abstract. The extant sources of the Maimonidean controversies demonstrate that medieval Jewish intellectual culture was fundamentally sited in actual encounters and interactions. Such interactions often took place around the practices of writing, conveying, receiving, and discussing letters, social activities governed by communal norms. Whether in the course of collaborating with co-writers, seeking signatories in support of a proposition contained in the letter text, or congregating at an established meeting to discuss a newly arrived letter, those involved in the controversies were actively, socially engaged in addressing the problems raised by the incompatibility of the Greco- Islamic rationalist tradition with rabbinic principles. Through a careful examination of the rich letter collection Minḥat Qenaʾot from the Maimonidean controversy of 1304–1306, this paper details the modes of encounter among discussants in the acrimonious cultural debate.


Image: Two Old Men Disputing, Rembrandt, 1628. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (used with permission).