"This valuable book will do much to disseminate knowledge of early Yiddish writing to a wider readership than has hitherto had access to it. . . . Highly Recommended."—Choice
"This volume is made up of translations into English of some of the most important of both 'religious' and 'secular' Yiddish epic poems. There is a general introduction that puts the epics in context and in addition, there is a separate introduction and notes for each individual epic. . . .This book should be basic for studies of medieval and early modern Judaism and for work on premodern religious attitudes."—Religious Studies Review
"Frakes renders both text and textual history with a considered lucidity that should satisfy the curiosity of the general reader as well as the keen eye of the scholar."—In GEVEB: A Journal of Yiddish Studies
Unlike most other ancient European, Near Eastern, and Mediterranean civilizations, Jewish culture surprisingly developed no early epic tradition: while the Bible comprises a broad range of literary genres, epic is not among them. Not until the late medieval period, Beginning in the fourteenth century, did an extensive and thriving epic tradition emerge in Yiddish.
Among the few dozen extant early epics, there are several masterpieces, of which ten are translated into English in this volume. Divided between the religious and the secular, the book includes eight epics presented in their entirety, an illustrative excerpt from another epic, and a brief heroic prose tale.These texts have been chosen as the best and the most interesting representatives of the genre in terms of cultural history and literary quality: the pious “epicizing” of biblical narrative, the swashbuckling medieval courtly epic, Arthurian romance, heroic vignettes, intellectual high art, and popular camp.
About the Author
Jerold C. Frakes is professor of English at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.
Series: Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art
7 x 10, 520 pages