The Transient World of Immanuel of Rome, 2 and 4 May 2023

The aim of these study days is to reconsider Immanuel of Rome and his work in relation to three areas of interest: (1) recent historiography on fourteenth-century Roman culture from the communal experience to the end of Avignon; (2) the role of language and the question of poetry and prose in the transitions from the Arab and Norman to the Romance period; (3) southern influences on Roman Judaism, including the circulation of Arabic, Hebrew, and Byzantine sources in the literary circles of the time.

In this effort to open new doors we wish to keep in sight the multidirectional connection among the Sicilian, Andalusi, and Baghdadi cultural circles with specific reference to poetic traditions.

Little is known about Immanuel’s life and work. Most information comes from his own poems and religious commentaries. He wrote in the vernacular and Hebrew, including the first “sonnets” in the biblical language. He conversed with a world steeped in the Arabic-Hebraic tradition while simultaneously maintaining a clear connection to the contemporary literary circles of poets who would become known as “stilnovisti”. He lived during a turbulent period of Roman history—his lifetime estimated to be between 1261-70 and 1335-50— marked by a prolonged absence of the Popes from the city and a profound shift of power in the relationship between the Papacy and the Empire.

Immanuel’s work was published extensively during and after his lifetime, both individually and as part of anthologies. Its impact must have been sufficiently visible to elicit a ban in the post-Tridentine tractate Shulḥan ʿArukh. Since his modern “rediscovery” by Leopold Zunz and Samuel David Luzzatto, several prestigious admirers have explored his writings including Umberto Cassuto, Cecil Roth, and Giuseppe Sermoneta. In the years since, historiography on 14th-century Rome, vernacular poetry, and al-Andalus has undergone considerable innovations, in terms of treatment of and access to primary sources; experimental methodological approaches; and a broadening of perspectives.

These study sessions aim to give new context to topics that may or may not have been explored in the past: TRAVELS: Intellectuals of the time often traveled, by choice or not, and transformed travel into a literary and political trope. Travel defined the notions of home and exile in ways that may differ dramatically from what we intend today but anticipate the consolidation of modern frontiers. LOVE: Perhaps the most difficult concept to pin down in this highly cross-cultural environment that absorbed love tropes from many different and intertwining traditions, including the Arabic, Hebrew, Byzantine, Christian, and their Neoplatonic variations. TEXT: Experimentation in prose and poetry; translation; the tension and overlapping of vernaculars with “classical languages,” including Latin, Arabic, and Hebrew; the construction of canon; and public literary practice. SATIRE: In its many forms, between the 10th and 15th centuries, satire is a permanent feature among Christian, Muslim, and Jewish writers. Although often singled out as an explanation for individual and psychological attitudes, its continuity across cultures and traditions may serve as a ground for a broader reflection on societies in which encounters and otherness were a challenging norm. POWER: In the slow and progressive dissolution of the Roman Empire over the course of several centuries, layers of power structures came into being. The Papacy and the Empire emerged as primary makers of what will eventually be regarded as the “western world.” Their interaction was complex and transformative for both. COMMUNITY and POLITICS: While documentation on the Jewish community of Rome during and before Immanuel’s life is limited, fragments of a complex puzzle can be gathered from different sources, including publishing, translating and learning activities, Jewish participation in political life, and demographic distribution.       

Through these and other topics, we wish to explore the worldviews and cultural atmospheres of the time, as well as changing notions of the self, stemming from a period of strong tensions between margins and centers. The study days are structured as conversations based on a small number of presentations.

Organized by Centro Primo Levi NY, NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimó, Università di Roma La Sapienza.

MAY 2 and 4 – 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
CPL at Vol de Nuit – 148 West 4th Street
Registration: – Please specify your affiliation and area of interest.

Participants: Isabelle Levy (Columbia University), Karla Mallette (University of Michigan), Fabrizio Lelli (University of Rome La Sapienza), Davide Liberatoscoli (University of Postdam), Dario Internullo (Università di Roma Tre), Serena Di Nepi (University of Rome La Sapienza), Roni Cohen (Tel Aviv University), Mahnaz Yousefzadeh (New York University), Michela Andreatta (University of Rochester).

MAY 2 
Fourteenth Century Rome.
9:00 am – Welcome and introduction
9:30 am – Isabelle Levy 10:30 am – Davide Liberatoscoli 11:30 pm – Dario Internullo 1:00 pm – lunch – 2:30-3:30 pm  discussion

Arabic, Hebrew and Byzantine Influences.
9:00 am – coffee 9:30 am – Isabelle Levy 10:30 am – Fabrizio Lelli 11:30 am – Karla Mallette 1:00 pm – lunch 2:30-3:30 pm discussion

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Andreas Lehnertz (April 23, 2023). The Transient World of Immanuel of Rome, 2 and 4 May 2023. medievalJewishStudiesNow! Retrieved July 18, 2024 from

About Andreas Lehnertz

As a Juniorprofessor of Medieval History specializing in Jewish History at Trier University, I delve into the intricate tapestry of social, cultural, and religious European history. My academic pursuits are centered around the nuanced dynamics of daily Christian-Jewish relations, the exploration of marginal Hebrew and Yiddish charter notes, the study of Jewish as well as general sealing practices, and the profound examination of Jewish craftspeople. I wrote a book about "Jewish Seals in the Medieval German Empire: The Authentication and Self-Representation of Jewish Men and Women" (in German). My expertise has been further honed through my roles as a postdoctoral fellow in the ERC project "Beyond the Elite – Jewish Daily Life in Medieval Europe" at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and as a member of the Martin Buber Society in the Humanities and Social Sciences, also at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Currently, I am writing book that delves into the intriguing world of "Jewish Craftspeople in Medieval Ashkenaz." Through my research and publications, I aim to contribute meaningfully to the academic discourse surrounding medieval history, providing valuable insights into the rich tapestry of European history during this pivotal period.