Biography as a Genre in Hebrew Haskalah: Isaac Abravanel as a 'Maskil' Bridging between Two Cultures

הביוגרפיה כז'אנר בהשכלה: דמותו של יצחק אברבנאל כמשכיל המגשר בין שתי תרבויות


In their desire to present models of Enlightenment to be emulated by maskilim, early Hebrew Haskalah writers in Germany espoused biography as a literary genre to be cultivated and developed. Biography was featured as a special section in Ha-Me'assef, the Haskalah journal in Germany. The editors carefully selected the persons to be included there. The subjects, needless to say, were both contemporary and historical Jewish figures who could be considered spiritual proponents and precursors of Haskalah. Isaac Euchel, editor, prolific writer and Enlightenment activist, excelled in his Hebrew biographies, besides writing in a variety of other literary genres. The topic of the present article, Euchel's brief biography of Isaac Abravanel, is studied against the backdrop of the literary features of the biographical genre in other contemporary European literatures. The biographer's choice of Abravanel is explained, as well as his concept of biography in general. Various literary devices and stylistic modes pertaining to the genre, as used by Euchel, are analyzed and discussed, while the biographical sources in Abravanel's own writings and other historical studies of him are compared. Attention is also given to Euchel's use of the Hebrew language and of biblical idiom.

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Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature /מחקרי ירושלים בספרות עברית

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