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The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination Hardcover – May 9, 2011


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The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination + The Washington Haggadah + A Mahzor from Worms: Art and Religion in a Medieval Jewish Community (Introduction -- Facts about the Leipzig Mahzor -- Worms: Com)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300156669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300156669
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 9.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Shows with remarkable sophistication and an acute visual sense how [medieval haggadot] did much more than illustrate the story of the Exodus, creating, rather complex statements about the role and place of Jews in the society of the time, as well as producing remarkable works of art.-Gabriel Josipovici "BOOKS OF THE YEAR" Times of London

"A dazzling analysis. . . . The Medieval Haggadah shows with remarkable sophistication and an acute visual sense how those who commissioned, produced the blueprint for, and illuminated four medieval haggadot, or books for use at the Passover ceremony, did much more than illustrate the story of the Exodus, creating, rather, complex statements about the role and place of Jews in the society of the time, as well as producing remarkable works of art."—Gabriel Josipovici, The Times Literary Supplement (Books of the Year)
(Gabriel Josopovici Times Literary Supplement)

"This is an outstanding study of the medieval Haggadah . . . a work all academic libraries should purchase."—S.T. Katz, Choice (S.T. Katz Choice)

“Historian Marc Michael Epstein explores four illuminated haggadot . . . Though the importance of these manuscripts is universally ac­knowledged, Epstein examines them with solutions to long-unresolved questions concerning the meaning of the art contained within them.”—Shofar
(Shofar)

About the Author

Marc Michael Epstein is professor of religion at Vassar College.

More About the Author

Marc Michael Epstein has been teaching at Vassar since 1992, and was the first Director of Jewish Studies. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, received the PhD at Yale University, and did much of his graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews. His most recent book, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (Yale, 2011) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of the year. During the 80s, Epstein was Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby's Judaica department, and continues to serve as consultant to various libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world, among them the Herbert C. and Eileen Bernard Museum at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, for which he curated the inaugural exhibition.

Customer Reviews

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Truly a beautiful book in all senses of the word.
acoles
This book provides an unmissable window into the world of medieval Jewish manuscript illumination.
mathteamjock
It is worth buying this book, if only to read this part.
Medieval art historian

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Buda Zsofia on May 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Marc Epstein's new book is outstanding in more than one sense. Its revolutionarily fresh approach to medieval Jewish visual culture is paired with an entertaining style and magnificent, high quality images, and all this at an affordable price.
The author examines the illustrations of four medieval Haggadot of the fourteenth century: the Birds' Head Haggadah, the Golden Haggadah, the Rylands and the "Brother" Haggadot. His innovative analysis oversteps the frames of traditional art history and takes the reader on an intellectual voyage through the realm of medieval Jewish-Christian dialogue. Marc Epstein points out how the Jewish authorship of these Haggadot used the visual medium to express theological and social ideas, and to respond to historical events. Reading the book, one discovers that book illumination and visual culture in general is able to open a new window and offer a fresh perspective on Jewish-Christian coexistence in the Middle Ages, and to shed light on certain aspects that are not palpable through written sources.
This book is much more than a monograph of four Haggadot. Just as his previous work, Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish art and Literature (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), Marc Michael Epstein's recent book is the foundation of a new methodology for studying Jewish visual culture as a creative and responsive medium which is able, and was indeed used, to express genuine Jewish ideas, rather than as a merely imitative or second-rate field compared to Christian art. Thanks to its clear and literary style, the book speaks to a much wider audience than a small circle of experts on Jewish art. Great enjoyment for the mind and the eyes!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By mathteamjock on May 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book provides an unmissable window into the world of medieval Jewish manuscript illumination. Like any good writer, Epstein makes a subject that might not initially have drawn my attention nothing less than fascinating. Where some might see oddly-drawn figures and a lack of artistic refinement, Epstein sees complicated illuminated manuscripts that shed light on the myriad ways that medieval Jews read and re-read the classic narrative of the Haggadah. Epstein's arguments are well-constructed and never boring; he is unafraid to share bold speculation, but also grounds his work in solid research and close examination of the details of the manuscripts. What comes across most clearly in Epstein's writing is his deep respect for the complexity and self-awareness of the creators of the manuscripts he examines -- and he extends that respect to you, the reader, by providing full-page replicas of the illustrated pages he discusses -- thus openly inviting you to examine them, draw your own conclusions, and add your own voice to the conversation. So, read the book and take the invitation!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karen A. S. on March 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this is a beautiful book, with amazing reproductions of pages of four early illustrated haggadot. the commentary is interesting and readable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Seth H. Rosenzweig on May 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I heard Professor Epstein lecture at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, and he was terrific, so when I got home, I bought the book, sight unseen, and I have to say, it, too, is wonderful--not only beautifully illustrated but also fascinating on many levels, touching on themes of loss, freedom, the role of women in Judaism, and the role of art in the world. He even delves into the cross-pollination between the Jewish and Christian traditions in Medieval religious art. As I said, fascinating stuff, intelligent and deep.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kaplan on May 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I don't normally like religious art, and having received training in modern intellectual history, I find the Middle Ages to be quite boring. However, Marc Epstein's book really drew me in to the world of medieval Jewry and its depiction in certain Haggadot. Not only does he critically expound upon some really extraordinary Haggadot, he makes them (and their patrons or creators) come alive. His relatively jargon-free prose and family anecdotes make this book fun to read and potentially accessible to a wider audience than the scholastic community. I think the book has enormous power towards that end. Many of Epstein's points and insights may be patently obvious to medievalists and to academics, but not to your average Jew. For example, we learn that far from being an ideal pious patriarchal learned community, my medieval ancestors were separated by class and profession; had an often confusing two-way relationship with larger society; quibbled amongst themselves; stabbed each other in their proverbial backs; kvetched and grumbled; engaged in power games; and liked to employ Gentile motifs and traditions, not the least of which was using the "forbidden" visual imagery. Epstein's analysis posits that medieval Jews, or at least the ones depicted in and appealed to in these haggadot, were far from the innocent male martyrs (as they have often been portrayed) and instead were flawed and complex human beings who strongly valued female contributions and leadership.

Of course, the book isn't perfect. The text was a bit hard to follow when trying to match it with the appropriate plates/figures. And I have to point out one issue that I don't think Epstein underscored nearly enough.
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