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January 12, 2011

Hebrew Bible’s Influence on the Sermons of John Donne Subject of Feb. 14 Talk

The Renaissance revival of classical learning in Europe brought with it a renewed interest not only in Greek letters but also in the language of the Hebrew Bible. For Christian humanists the study of Hebrew was on par with that of Greek and Latin. Entire schools of "Christian Hebraists" emerged, often working in close contact with Jewish scholars or Jewish converts to Christianity. One notable Christian Hebraist was the English poet and preacher John Donne (1572-1631), whose religious thought was shaped by the biblical commentaries of 12th-century Jewish scholar Abraham ibn Ezra, born in Spain in 1089.

Chanita Goodblatt will discuss her new book "The Christian Hebraism of John Donne" at the Library of Congress at noon on Monday, Feb. 14 in the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room, located in Room 220 of the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited.

In her book, Goodblatt examines the paths—direct and indirect—in which many of the ideas in Donne’s sermons can be traced to the Hebrew commentaries of Ibn Ezra. Through close readings of Donne’s sermons and rigorous identification of the source texts behind the scholarly network of Christian Hebraism, Goodblatt ties specific lexical, rhetorical and thematic strategies to Hebrew traditions. Donne’s reinterpretation of the Bible based on Jewish exegesis ultimately adds to an understanding of Christian Hebraism and establishes the Church of England as the inheritor of the Jewish tradition.

Goodblatt is a professor of English and comparative literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. She earned her Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1990. The author of numerous scholarly articles in her field and the co-editor of two books of collected articles, she has received several prestigious grants and awards, including two from the Israel Science Foundation. In addition to her study of Christian Hebraism and its Hebraic sources, Goodblatt is interested in modern Hebrew and American poetry and in the concept of poetry as social discourse.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

The African and Middle Eastern Division furthers this mission as the Library’s center for the study of some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. The Division’s Hebraic Section is one of the world’s foremost centers for the study of Hebrew and Yiddish materials. For more information on the division and its holdings, visit www.loc.gov/rr/amed/.

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PR 11-010
01/12/11
ISSN 0731-3527

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