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The Hebrew Folktale: History, Genre, Meaning (Folklore Studies in Translation)
“The Hebrew Folktale” seeks to find and define the folk-elements of Jewish culture. Through the use of generic distinctions and definitions developed in folkloristics, Yassif describes the major trends-structural, thematic, functional-of folk narrative in the central periods of Jewish culture. Yassif employs this classification as the primary vehicle for understanding the social function and cultural meaning of the Hebrew folktale within Jewish culture. By analysing texts from various periods in their historical and cultural context, the author presents an overview of the Hebrew folktale, examines the transmission of the folktale from period to period, and looks at the interaction between texts from different times and contexts. The folktale in the history of Jewish culture is presented as a continuous and developing element, which ‘moves’ with Jewish history, and is a central component in its interpretation and memory. The study of the folktale in Jewish culture offers an opportunity for understanding general themes such as the place of folklore in the development of culture, and the complicated relationships between elite and folk culture, oral and written literature, historical reality, and narrative fiction. Eli Yassif is Professor of Hebrew literature and Jewish Folklore at Tel-Aviv University. He is the author of many books including “The Study of Jewish Folklore: An Annotated Bibliography”, “The Golem of Prague”, and “The Knight”, “The Demon and the Virgin: An anthology of Hebrew Stories from the Middle Ages”.
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