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Introduction to Old Yiddish Literature$
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Jean Baumgarten and Jerold C. Frakes

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199276332

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199276332.001.0001

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The Emergence of Yiddish Literature and the Crisis in Jewish Society

The Emergence of Yiddish Literature and the Crisis in Jewish Society

(p.26) 2 The Emergence of Yiddish Literature and the Crisis in Jewish Society
Introduction to Old Yiddish Literature

Jean Baumgarten

, Jerold C. Frakes
Oxford University Press

It was in the context of crisis that Yiddish literature developed and served a double function. On the one hand, it testifies to the authorities' move for control of the disoriented Jewish populace, and to an effort toward vernacularization of the tradition's canonical texts. It developed a mechanism of religious instruction where popular books played a significant role. On the other hand, this literature signified the beginnings of a gradual emancipation of knowledge from the exclusive guardianship of the scholars, the talmidei khakhomim, who exercised a monopoly on the writing, the interpretation, and the reading of the texts. This led to the development of an audience of new readers, entailing new ways of reading that differed from the models and conceptions which had existed essentially in a world of scholars. The increase in the numbers of popular Yiddish books contributed to the new relationship with knowledge during this period.

Keywords:   Yiddish literature, scholars, talmidei khakhomim, vernacularization

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