History and memory of self: The autobiography of Rabbi Jacob Emden
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In the unfolding of the Jewish historical experience, the literary genre of autobiography is a relatively late arrival. While others in the societies within which Jews lived chose to express themselves in this manner, Jews opted for other forms of self-expression. Ancient and medieval Jewry could not boast of the equivalent of an Augustine, an Abelard, a Teresa of Avila, a Dante, or others whose literary oeuvre included a major work of this sort. It was not until early modern times that autobiography began to become a more accepted and popular form of Jewish discourse. 1 In attempting to account for this phenomenon, a contemporary scholar has speculated that it reflects the centrality of the group over the individual in premodern Jewish life. He wrote: "In the classical [Jewish] tradition the individual is so firmly embedded within communal, legal and historical structures that his or her separate inner drama is simple not viewed as a significant source of meaning for the tradition as a whole .... Although the individual is responsible for his actions, the meaning of his life is absorbed in collective structures and collective myths."2 (from Introduction)
Schacter, J. J. (1998). History and memory of self: The autobiography of Rabbi Jacob Emden. In E. Carlebach, J. Efron, & D. Myers (Eds.), Jewish history and Jewish memory: Essays in Honor of Yosef Hayim Yerusahlemi (pp. 428-452). Hannover.
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