Medieval Institute Ph.D. Candidate awarded prestigious positions in Rome and at Yale

Author: Medieval Institute

Headshot of Dov Honick

The Medieval Institute is delighted to announce that Ph.D. candidate Dov Honick has been awarded two prestigious positions.

Dov has first been awarded the Paul Mellon Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome. During the 2023–24 academic year, Dov will be in residence in Rome, completing his dissertation, “Mysticism, Polemic, and the Origins of Christian Hebraism.” As a resident of the vibrant, interdisciplinary community of scholars and artists at the American Academy in Rome, Dov will establish connections with other researchers and institutions in Italy and Europe, fostering collaborations and exchanges that will benefit his academic career and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in his field. The year will also give him the unique opportunity to work for an extended period of time at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, one of the great manuscript libraries in Europe.

After his year in Rome, Dov will return to the U.S. and become a two-year Blaustein Post Doctoral Associate in Medieval Jewish History in the Judaic Studies Program at Yale University. At Yale, Dov will revise and expand his dissertation into a book project, and will complete a secondary research project titled “Baptized Hebrews, Circumcised Latins: Perceptions of Sacred Language among Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe,” which examines the religious, ethnic, and linguistic tensions raised by opposing views of Hebrew as a sacred language among Christians.

The Blaustein Post Doctoral fellowship at Yale is also a valuable opportunity for emerging scholars in Judaic Studies. Working within one of the leading programs in the field, Dov will have access to excellent resources, mentorship from top scholars, and opportunities for professional development. The fellowship will allow him to broaden his research profile, deepen his knowledge of medieval Jewish history, and contribute to ongoing conversations within the field.

Dov's work in midrashic transmission lies mainly with polemical writers who are frequently understudied by scholars of Christian Hebraism. His dissertation is a source-critical study of the anti-Jewish polemics written in the first half of the twelfth century by Petrus Alphonsi and Peter the Venerable. Alphonsi and Peter are generally recognized as the first Christian authors to quote extensively from the Talmud, and historians frequently link their familiarity with the Talmud to the emergence of rising anti-Jewish prejudice in the twelfth century. In his dissertation, Dov challenges the commonly-accepted assumption that Alphonsi and Peter relied primarily on the Talmud as their source for the rabbinic aggadah that they regularly cite and disparage. Instead, he argues that Alphonsi and Peter likely drew on the vast corpus of minor midrashic, homiletic, and mystical texts that circulated during the twelfth century and were often bound in the same codices.

The identification of the diverse midrashic and mystical sources used by Petrus Alphonsi and Peter the Venerable is an important contribution to our knowledge of the motivations, theological challenges, and exposure to rabbinic literature that underpinned these authors’ specific works. However, his novel approach to these polemical works provides a blueprint for the future study of medieval Hebrew and Latin works that demonstrate signs of cultural interpenetration and challenges scholars to think more expansively about the definition of Christian Hebraism as a movement that incorporates polemical works. Additionally, his work troubles the narrative that the increase in anti-Jewish sentiment in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was a response to the Talmud and rabbinic legal culture in particular and argues that what Christian polemicists encountered was a broader cultural ecosystem that incorporated a wide range of rabbinic and popular text and practice.

I am immensely grateful to my dissertation committee and other mentors at the Medieval Institute, all of whom have played a vital role in guiding my academic progress towards these fellowships," Dov reflected. "My success with these applications is a testament to the strength of the Medieval Institute’s interdisciplinary training."