David Stern is the Moritz and Josephine Berg Professor of Classical Hebrew Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. His research has focused on Jewish literary creativity in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, with a special focus on midrash, rabbinic interpretation of the Bible, and its intersections with contemporary literary theory. For the past 12 years, his work has concentrated on the history of the Jewish book as a material artifact.
At Radcliffe, Stern will work on a history of the Jewish book from antiquity to the present time. This history will take the form of 160 essays about specific copies of seminal Jewish books; each essay will trace the “life” of a book from the creation of its text to the story of its production and its “afterlife”—the narrative of its ownership, preservation, and survival. By recounting the complete careers of these books, Stern hopes to capture the complexities of the Jewish book’s place within the larger Jewish culture.
Stern received his PhD from Harvard, where he was also a junior fellow in the Society of Fellows. His fellowships include awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has written and edited nine books, including The Washington Haggadah (Belknap Press, 2011), Midrash and Theory: Ancient Jewish Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies (Northwestern University Press, 1996), and Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Hebrew Literature (Yale University Press, 1990).