Wisdom and Moralizing Literature in a Multicultural Journey in the Middle Ages

Mon, 16/11/2015 to Thu, 19/11/2015
See also: Events, Conferences



Tova Bibring (Bar-Ilan University)
Revital Rafael Vivante (Bar-Ilan University)


Berechiah ben R. Natronai ha-naqdan’s collection of fables, Mishlei Shu’alim (Fox Fables), is the largest compilation of medieval Aesopic fables in Hebrew. It is extant in 12 manuscripts dating from the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries. Probably written in France toward the end of the twelfth century, this work belongs to the rich corpus of fable literature that was in vogue in medieval Europe, especially in England and France.

Fables are no stranger to Jewish culture, they are found as rhetorical and didactic tools in Scripture, in Talmudic homilies, and in Hebrew secular literature. The large majority of Berechiah’s fables, however, are derived from Latin and vernacular translations of the Greek fables attributed to the legendary Aesop. The history of European fables from antiquity to the Middle Ages is complex, as it involves both oral and lost written sources. Berechiah ha-naqdan’s Mishlei Shu’alim is a vivid testimony to the circulation of such sources throughout the Middle Ages and to the popularity of such fables.

The conference will be a multidisciplinary, international gathering, bringing together experts in medieval and early modern studies who specialize in varied fields, such as the sacred and the profane, Hebrew, French, Latin, Arabic, Indian, Persian proverbial, didactic and moralized literatures. The conference will provide the opportunity to discuss critical questions in the understanding of cultural transfers:

  • The circulation of written/oral sources in different moralizing genres (i.e. fables, exempla, beast epics, proverbial and sapience literatures, preaching, vitae) and their cultural/linguistic transfers and metamorphoses
  • Various readings of those genres, in comparative and intertextual approaches
  • The significance of such narratives as barriers of philosophical, moral, didactic, and ethical knowledge
  • Occidental and Oriental fables and beast epics
  • Berechiah and Mishlei Shu’alim as a case study:
  1. A medieval translation?
  2. Techniques of cultural transfers
  3. Aesthetics and poetics
  4. Other texts attributed to Berechiah
  • The surprising and quite overlooked common themes of the Panchatantra and its derivatives, such as Calila e Dimna, and the rich medieval Aesopic tradition (such as the Babrian and Phaedrian branches as well as the Romulus traditions and the French Isopets).


Program >



Elizabeth Allen, University of California, Irvine
Sharon Aronson-Lehavi, Bar-Ilan University
Cyril Aslanov, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Danielle Buschinger, Université de Picardie-Jule Verne
Christiane Cosme, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3
Pierre-Olivier Dittmar, EHESS Paris
Ari Geiger, Bar-Ilan University
Myriam Greilsammer, Bar Ilan University
Simona Gronemann, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Christian Heck, Université de Lille 3
Jonathan Jacobs, Bar-Ilan University
Alka Jaspal, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Madeleine Jeay, McMaster University
Amir Lerner, Tel Aviv University
John F. Levy, Independent Scholar
Dov Ber Kotlerman, Bar-Ilan University
Rella Kushelevsky, Bar-Ilan University
Ayelet Oettinger, The University of Haifa & The Academic Arab College of Education
Sara Offenberg, Bar-Ilan University
Maud Pérez-Simon, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3
Jose Manuel Pedrosa, Universidad de Alcalà
Marie-Anne Polo De Beaulieu, CNRS, Paris
Shmuel Refael-Vivante, Bar-Ilan University
Naomi Rokotnitz, Tel-Aviv University
Dudu Rotman, Tel-Aviv University
Joseph Sadan, Tel-Aviv University
Aurora Salvatierra, Universidad de Granada
Nili Shalev, Ben Gurion University of the Negev & Tel-Aviv University
David Shyovitz, Northwestern University
Daniel Soukup, Palacky University & Czech Academy of Sciences
Michelle Szkilnik, University of Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3
Vered Tohar, Bar-Ilan University
Marzolph Ulrich, Enzyklopädie des Märchens Göttingen
Marie-Christine Varol, Inalco, Paris & Marie-Sol Ortola, Université de Lorraine
Jean-Jacques Vincensini, Université François Rabelais
Tamas Visi, Palacky University
Joseph Yahalom, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Yosef Yuval Tobi, University of Haifa
Eli Yassif , Tel-Aviv University