"Meir has taken the relatively neglected figure of Rodkinson and created a detailed and fascinating portrait. He ably demonstrates that the boundaries between Hasidism and Haskalah were frequently crossed, and this markedly improves our understanding of the dynamics of Jewish intellectual history in the crucial period of the late nineteenth century."—Ira Robinson, Concordia University
"Jonatan Meir portrays the career of one of the most ambivalent characters of the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, Michael Levi Rodkinson, and his move from the propagation of popular Hasidism to his more grandiose attempts to reframe and restructure the entire Jewish canon. This look into the world of the late nineteenth-century Jewish Enlightenment will be an eye-opener."—Pinchas Giller, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University
"A must read for anyone interested in the history of Hasidic literature. Jonatan Meir masterfully tells the story of late nineteenth-century eastern European Jewish scholarship through the bruising battles, big ideas, and petty intrigues of Michael Levi Rodkinson. Mining and synthesizing archives located on multiple continents he uncovers a dynamic new religious landscape filled with a motley crew of scoundrels, saints, rabbis and missionaries. Erudite and subversive Literary Hasidism will shock the pious, tickle heretics and provide scholars with a new lens to see modern Judaism."—Eliyahu Stern, associate professor of religious studies, Yale University
"A rich overview of Rodkinson’s entire literary career. This is an important contribution to scholarship on the authors of books of Hasidic tales and their historical context. . . . Well written and thoroughly researched."—Justin Jaron Lewis, University of Manitoba, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
Michael Levi Rodkinson (1845–1904) was a journalist, author, and publisher whose literary projects spanned numerous countries and continents. Hero to some and scoundrel to others, Rodkinson was a polemical figure whose beliefs underwent many transformations over the course of his life, most significantly from Hasidism to combative Haskalah to eventually anticipating the neo-Romantic trends of the early twentieth century. Throughout his career, Rodkinson’s writing challenged the familiar genres of the literature of Hasidism and the Haskalah, shaping the religious realities of his readers and articulating a spiritual and community life among Jews, who took his ideas to heart in surprising ways.
Today, Rodkinson is frequently referred to as a minor Hasidic author and publisher, a characterization based on the criticism of his opponents rather than on his writings. In Literary Hasidism, Meir draws upon those writings and their reception to present a completely different picture of this colorful and influential writer. Examining Rodkinson’s lifelong role as a catalyzing agent of different cultural phenomena, his diverse publishing activities, and his writings in their respective stages, Meir grants readers a provocative new vantage point from which to consider this divisive, enigmatic figure.
Jonatan Meir is associate professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is the author of Imagined Hasidism: The Anti-Hasidic Writings of Joseph Perl and editor of Sefer Megale Temerin by Joseph Perl.
6 x 9, 272 pages