On February 22, Religions and Public Life will host a seminar featuring a new project by Dr. Michael McVaugh (UNC-CH), Dr. Gerrit Bos (Cologne), and Dr. Joseph Shatzmiller (Duke), speaking on the medieval transmission and translation of Arabic medical texts through the West.
Thursday, February 22
Ahmadieh Family Conference Room,
West Duke Building, Room 101
Abstract: The transforming effect of Islamic learning on medieval European civilization, far more poorly known today than it should be, was facilitated by a flood of Arabic-to-Latin translations of medical and philosophical writings in the years 1000-1300. The interreligious and intercultural aspects of these translations and transmissions are notable: Jews were often intermediates in translation because they could read the Arabic and translate it into the Romance vernacular for the Christian translators to go on and turn into Latin. The speakers will give a summary account of this movement, and then go on to examine its effects more closely by studying one specific medical translation that is an utterly unique witness to the process of Arabic-Latin translation in general—its difficulties and its successes, and its methods, with their combination of faithfulness to the original and successful adaptation to new circumstances. This 12th-c Arabic work exists in a Latin version made by a Jewish scholar who translated the Arabic into the Romance vernacular for a Christian surgeon to turn into Latin, and then made his own Hebrew translation of the same text. The speakers will invite reflections on how far translation can allow one culture’s achievements to be communicated to and internalized by another.
Joseph Shatzmiller is the Smart Family Professor Emeritus in Judaic Studies in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University. He is the author of Shylock Reconsidered: Jews, Moneylending and Medieval Society and a more recent volume on Jews, Medicine, and Medieval Society, along with numerous essays on European Jewry in the Middle Ages. He has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research, and he has taught Jewish history at the University of Haifa and the University of Toronto.
Michael McVaugh is Professor Emeritus and William Smith Wells Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His research focuses on the growth of medical and surgical learning in the Middle Ages, particularly as shaped by the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century universities, and on the concomitant medicalization of European life. Since 1975 he has been a general editor of the collected Latin writings of one of the most famous of medieval physicians, Arnau de Vilanova (d. 1311), a series now nearly complete. Most recently he has been engaged in a series of studies investigating aspects of the process of translation of medical literature in the Middle Ages: translations between Arabic and Latin, between Hebrew and Latin, and between Latin and the European vernaculars.
Gerrit Bos is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Martin-Buber-Institut at Cologne University. His main fields of research are medieval Jewish-Islamic science, especially medicine, medieval Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic. Current projects include developing critical editions of Maimonides’ medical works, and editing and translating previously unpublished middle Hebrew medical-botanical texts. (Dr. Bos will be unable to join the seminar at this time.)
For more information, please contact Amber Díaz Pearson. Those coming from outside of Duke University may request a parking pass.