ABSTRACT

This article surveys medieval Jewish prison writings from Provence, Catalonia, and Orange, spanning the late thirteenth to the early fifteenth centuries. It asks what we can learn of the conditions of Jewish imprisonment and the types of literature it produced. While prison conditions varied greatly, prison writing unanimously expresses a commitment to the values and training that characterized its intellectual authors. The autobiographical prologues are assertions of “self” related to but distinct from the lyric and confessional forms of Christian prison literature. Jewish prison writers enlisted the prologues of technical works to relate their stories; examples of prison lyrics are few and idiosyncratic. Later writers were aware of contemporary enthusiasm for Boethius, as attested by two nearly contemporary Hebrew translations, one the result of the translator's imprisonment in Aragon. Further study of this literature is in order.

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