Senior Fellow: October 2017–March 2018
Research Project: Scepticism in Medieval Ashkenaz and the Tosafists as Masterminds—The Glosses in MS Vienna Cod. hebr. 220 and their Critical Discourse Against Traditional Exegesis
Hanna Liss will contribute to the question of scepticism by writing a case study on the dissemination and transmission of sceptical thought in Medieval Ashkenaz by investigating the exegetical glosses to a Rashi recension in MS Vienna Cod. hebr. 220, a great many of which are very similar to the Torah commentary attributed to Rashbam. These Tosafists’ glosses portray a sceptical view of the Midrashic tradition of the so-called Rishonim (in particular Rashi) by focusing on the plot of the biblical narrative and its storyline, the psychology of the biblical characters, or on contemporary profane lore and knowledge.
However, the fact that the glosses with their external mise-en-texte represent the consensus magistri shows that notwithstanding their new exegetical approach, they aim to appear to be attempting to integrate older traditions. Liss’s study will demonstrate that the intellectual elite in Ashkenaz and Northern French developed a sceptical approach towards rabbinic tradition that differed from its Oriental and Sefardic counterparts not only as regards the subjects to be dealt with, but also regarding the external form of the writings (mise-en-texte; layout).
Since 2003, Hanna Liss has been chair of the Department of Bible and Jewish Exegesis at the Center for Jewish Studies Heidelberg and the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Her main research interests are medieval Jewish exegesis, Masorah, and Jewish hermeneutics.