€1.5 million grant for work on medieval Hebrew philosophical manuscripts

Yoav Meyrav, a research associate at the Maimonides Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Hamburg, received a grant of 1.5 million euros (about $1.58 million) for his work on medieval Hebrew philosophical manuscripts.

The grant is a late addition to the previously announced list of “starter grants” awarded by the European Research Council (ERC). You can see the previous post announcing the other philosophical projects among the ERC Starting Grants winners here.

Here is the summary of Dr. Meyrav’s project, “Hebrew Philosophical Manuscripts as Sites of Engagement” (HEPMASITE):

In the Middle Ages, philosophical activity undertaken in Hebrew was not conducted in an institutionalized environment. There were no universities, no regulated curricula, or professors, only small circles of scholars, most of whom we know nothing about. These scholars had to obtain themselves copies of the works they wished to explore, sometimes even by copying them themselves or with the help of others. Heavily involved in the production of the materials they used, they often interfered with the texts they studied, offering corrections, working notes, glosses, comparisons and observations. As a result, the body of philosophical writings in Hebrew is incredibly diverse, and it is rare for one copy to be similar to another. In this difficult landscape, individual copying is our primary entry point to understanding how Hebrew philosophy unfolded in the real world.

The Hebrew philosophical manuscript is not just a container of text; more than anything else, it’s an engagement site. With a few notable exceptions, scholarship in Hebrew philosophy still focuses on a relatively small number of major thinkers and works. Manuscripts are often stripped of their distinctiveness and used only for the purpose of producing critical editions. The story of the silent, nameless majority—which enabled philosophical activity by tirelessly editing, studying, translating, revising, and producing the material Hebrew philosophical corpus we have today—remains to be told.

HEPMASITE is the first project to tackle the corpus of medieval Hebrew philosophical manuscripts in order to unravel the hidden history of Jewish philosophy hidden within. By employing narrative philology and historiography of engagement – ​​new research methodologies that embrace textual particularity and fluidity – HEPMASITE will revolutionize the understanding of Jewish philosophy as it unfolded in the real world and as ‘it was studied by real people.

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