Dante and the Jewish Question

Bernardo Lecture Series, No. 13

By Rachel Jacoff
Edited by Sandro Sticca

Subjects: Classics, Italian Studies, Medieval Studies
Series: The Bernardo Lecture Series
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781586842581, 39 pages, January 2004

Addresses Jacoff’s own discomfort with Dante’s reiteration of the deicide charge against the Jews in Paradiso 7 and elsewhere.


Rachel Jacoff's Dante and the Jewish Question is the thirteenth in a series of publications occasioned by the annual Bernardo Lecture at the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies (CEMERS) at Binghamton University. This series offers public lectures which have been given by distinguished medieval and Renaissance scholars on topics and figures representative of these two important historical, religious, and intellectual periods.

Dante and the Jewish Question begins with recent expressions of discomfort that two distinguished medievalists have noted in their relationship to texts that are at once beloved but also pernicious in their propagation of misogynistic and anti-Semitic clichés. This essay addresses Jacoff's own discomfort with Dante's reiteration of the deicide charge against the Jews in Paradiso 7 and elsewhere. It explores Dante's divergence from his major source, St. Anselm's own complex relationship of the medieval Church to the Jews in the thirteenth century and some of the theories that have been proposed by historians for the increasing sense of danger the Church manifests in this period. It concludes with a discussion of the issues at state in teaching such issues and their pertinence to our own historical moment.

Rachel Jacoff is Margaret Deffenbaugh and LeRoy Carlson Professor of Comparative Literature and Italian Studies at Wellesley College. She has written numerous articles on Dante and, most recently, she edited The Cambridge Companion to Dante, and co-edited The Poets' Dante, a collection of essays by twentieth-century poets.