Talya Fishman

Talya Fishman

Associate Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History

(215) 898-5837

706 Williams Hall

Talya Fishman explores topics in Jewish history and culture from the 9th to 18th centuries within the broader regional contexts of Christian and Muslim societies. In Shaking the Pillars of Exile: 'Voice of a Fool,' an Early Modern Jewish Critique of Rabbinic Culture (Stanford University Press, 1997), she analyzes an early seventeenth century heretical Hebrew blueprint for Jewish modernization written (under cover of pseudonym) by a Venetian rabbi, and relates this enigmatic text to the theological and cultural struggles of former conversos who attempted to re-embrace their ancestral faith, and to the quests of self-fashioning Christians in a time of doctrinal lability. Dr. Fishman’s interest in Jewish legal cultures, their content, packaging, transmission and institutional implementation finds expression in Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), winner of the Jewish Book Council’s Nahum M. Sarna Award for Scholarship. Her research into the origins of Judaism’s sub-cultures includes “The ‘Our Talmud’ Tradition and the Predilection for Works of Applied Law in Early Sephardi Rabbinic Culture,” in Regional Identities and Cultures of Medieval Jews, ed. T. Fishman and E. Kanarfogel (Littman Library, 2018), and in her ongoing work on the disparate cultural weights ascribed to custom in the legal systems of Ashkenaz and Sepharad. She is also at work on a book length study, Word and Image in the Biblical Artifact: Sensing Torah, which attempts to understand the cultural functions of masorah figurata and of the illuminations that recur in lavish Hebrew Bible codices produced by medieval Jews.

Dr. Fishman has been the recipient of fellowships from the ACLS, NEH, Charlotte Newcombe and Guggenheim Foundations, and has lectured at universities in the US, Israel, Germany, France and China. She serves on the Editorial Board of the Association for Jewish Studies Review; of the Jewish Thought, Philosophy and Religion series of the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies at the University of Hamburg, and on the Advisory Board of Zutot: Perspectives on Jewish Culture.

Courses Taught
  • Jewish Political Thought and Action
  • The “Religious Other” in the Lives & Cultures of Jews, Christians & Muslims
  • Rabbinic Writers on Rabbinic Culture
  • Themes in Medieval Jewish Culture
  • Medieval Hebrew Literature
  • Spirit and Law
  • Introduction to Jewish Mysticism
  • Contested Scriptures & the History of the Hebrew Bible’s Material Text