By Jean-Claude Schmitt
Sometime towards the center of the 12th century, it truly is intended, an in a different way vague determine, born a Jew in Cologne and later ordained as a clergyman in Cappenberg in Westphalia, wrote a Latin account of his conversion to Christianity. often called the Opusculum, this e-book purportedly by means of "Herman, the previous Jew" might be the 1st autobiography to be written within the West after the Confessions of Saint Augustine. it might probably even be anything else entirely.
In The Conversion of Herman the Jew the eminent French historian Jean-Claude Schmitt examines this singular textual content and the ways that it has divided its readers. the place a few have obvious it as an real conversion narrative, others have requested if it is no longer an entire fabrication solid through Christian clerics. For Schmitt the query is poorly posed. The paintings is straight away actual and fictional, and the quest for its lone author—whether switched over Jew or not—fruitless. Herman may perhaps have existed and contributed to the writing of his lifestyles, however the Opusculum is a collective paintings, possibly framed to satisfy a selected institutional agenda.
With agility and erudition, Schmitt examines the textual content to discover its which means in the society and tradition of its interval and its participation in either a Christian and Jewish imaginary. What can it let us know approximately autobiography and subjectivity, in regards to the functionality of desires and the legitimacy of spiritual pictures, approximately person and collective conversion, and approximately names and identities? In The Conversion of Herman the Jew Schmitt masterfully seizes upon the debates surrounding the Opusculum (the textual content of that's newly translated for this quantity) to reflect on extra essentially the ways that historians imagine and write.
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