David Stern is Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature, with joint appointments in the Departments of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Department of Comparative Literature. Professor Stern joined the Harvard faculty in July 2015, after teaching at the University of Pennsylvania for many years. Stern holds a B.A. from Columbia and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard. Stern was also a Junior Fellow in Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and has served as a Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Princeton University, and Nanjing University. He has also been the recipient of fellowships and awards from the ACLS, the NEH, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute.
The overall subject of Professor Stern's scholarly work is the history of Jewish literary creativity within its larger historical and cultural contexts, and he has written articles, essays, and books on works from virtually every period of Jewish literary history from the early post-Biblical to the contemporary. The brunt of his scholarship has focused on two areas. The first of these is Classical Rabbinic and Medieval Hebrew literature with a special interest in Biblical interpretation (Rabbinic midrash in particular) and its intersection with contemporary literary theory. His published work in this field includes Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature (1991); Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Hebrew Literature (1990); Midrash and Theory: Ancient Jewish Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies (1996); and numerous essays and articles, many of which will be collected in the forthcoming Jewish Literary Cultures: The Ancient Period.
The second field in which Professor Stern specializes is the history of the Jewish book as a material object. His published works in this field include The Washington Haggadah by Joel ben Simeon: A Fifteenth Century Manuscript from The Library of Congress (2011); The Monk’s Haggadah: A Fifteenth Century Illuminated Codex from the Monastery of Tegernsee with a Prologue by the Friar Erhard von Pappenheim (2015); and the forthcoming The Jewish Bible: The Material Histories of the Torah Scroll and the Hebrew Bible as a Book. He also curated and wrote the catalogue for the acclaimed exhibit, Chosen: Philadelphia’s Great Hebraica, which was held at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia in 2011. A video based on that exhibit, “A Tour Through the Jewish Book” can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/user/pennlibraries
Professor Stern’s teaching focuses on the reading of primary sources, whether in the original language or in translation. In the former case, classes concentrate on foundational Jewish texts like Midrash and Talmud. Among the translation courses, several (e.g. “Catastrophe and Continuity in Jewish Literature” and “The Binding of Isaac”) span the entire length of Jewish literary history, from the Bible to the present. Other courses in translation include “Great Books of Judaism” (Talmud, Bible Commentary, the Prayerbook, and the Passover Haggadah), and “Ancient Biblical Interpreters,” which tracks the comparative history of ancient and medieval Jewish and Christian Biblical Interpretation.
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