The chapter traces the circulation, transformation, and function of an exemplar story of conversion (an idealized negotiation of identity) from seventh-century Byzantium to Renaissance Florence. Along the centuries, the story was not only translated into different languages (from Greek to Latin, from Latin to Italian), but was also adapted to different genres and media: hagiographical texts, exempla, religious plays, woodcuts. While the basic plot of the story and the emphasis on almsgiving as an advantageous investment remained the same throughout (with the poor playing the role of the familiar and ‘useful’ neighbour), the representation of diversity was influenced by the socio-political contexts in which the story was appropriated. This becomes particularly visible in a Florentine drama, which introduces a contemporary social background dominated by suspicions and tensions between the Christian majority and the Jewish minority, with the latter portrayed as ‘strangers’. In this case, an apparently peaceful story of conversion reveals the increasing anxiety for the presence, and resilience, of the Jewish community within Christian society. A centuries-old fictional tale was adapted to respond to an ongoing political conflict. Three versions of this tale, taken from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century collections of exempla, are included in the appendix.

From Byzantine Gentile to Florentine Jew: The Transformation of an Exemplar Conversion

Pietro Delcorno
2022

Abstract

The chapter traces the circulation, transformation, and function of an exemplar story of conversion (an idealized negotiation of identity) from seventh-century Byzantium to Renaissance Florence. Along the centuries, the story was not only translated into different languages (from Greek to Latin, from Latin to Italian), but was also adapted to different genres and media: hagiographical texts, exempla, religious plays, woodcuts. While the basic plot of the story and the emphasis on almsgiving as an advantageous investment remained the same throughout (with the poor playing the role of the familiar and ‘useful’ neighbour), the representation of diversity was influenced by the socio-political contexts in which the story was appropriated. This becomes particularly visible in a Florentine drama, which introduces a contemporary social background dominated by suspicions and tensions between the Christian majority and the Jewish minority, with the latter portrayed as ‘strangers’. In this case, an apparently peaceful story of conversion reveals the increasing anxiety for the presence, and resilience, of the Jewish community within Christian society. A centuries-old fictional tale was adapted to respond to an ongoing political conflict. Three versions of this tale, taken from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century collections of exempla, are included in the appendix.
Negotiation, Collaboration, and Conflict in Ancient and Medieval Communities
251
274
Pietro Delcorno
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/884468
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