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Stories of Joseph

Narrative Migrations between Judaism and Islam

Marc S. Bernstein

Folklore, Jewish Studies, Language and Literature, Literary Criticism and Theory

Published: February 2009
ISBN: 9780814325667
Pages: 336 Size: 6x9
Published: February 2009
ISBN: 9780814340950

By investigating a wide range of literary phenomena specifically to the Joseph story and providing a readable translation, this study is of value and interest to all students of religion.

— Religious Studies Review

The last century has seen the demise of age-old Jewish communal life in the Arab world, and there is now a struggle to overcome a mutual lack of understanding between the West and the Arab-Muslim world. Over the course of past centuries, there was a great sharing of creative and scientific knowledge across religious lines. Stories about biblical figures held to be prophets by both Judaism and Islam are one result of this relationship and reflect an environment where not only literary genre and modes of interpretation but particular motifs could be utilized by both religious traditions. Stories of Joseph details this historical interdependence that reveals much about common experiences and concerns of Jews and Muslims. Marc S. Bernstein's rich analysis focuses on the nineteenth-century Judeo-Arabic manuscript The Story of Our Master Joseph--a Jewish text taking its form from an Islamic prototype (itself largely based on midrashic, Hellenistic, and Near Eastern material) extending back to the earliest human stories of parental favoritism, sibling rivalry, separtism from loved ones, sexual mores, and the struggles for a continued communal existence outside the homeland.

Marc S. Bernstein is assistant professor of Hebrew and Jewish cultural studies at Michigan State University.

The Judeo-Arabic text [Bernstein] has studied is generally not well known and is quite remarkable. . . . Aside from its usefulness for scholars, the tale of Joseph as presented here is a fascinating story and one that many others will be interested in reading if only just for pleasure."

– William M. Brinner, University of California, Berkeley

Readers interested in the Joseph story and in a comparison of Jewish and Islamic exegesis will find Bernstein's study to provide valuable insights. Perhaps more significantly, readers interested in texts as cultural artifacts illustrating complex living worlds inhabited by people with equally complex historical and primordial ties, should find Bernstein's work a model of how historians can 'read' a text to disclose culture."

– Shofar