August 13, 2010 The Role of Language in Shaping the Cultural Identity of Medieval French Jews Is Subject of Sept. 20 Book Talk

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Peggy Pearlstein (202) 707-3779 | Ann Brener (202) 707-4186

The intersection between Hebrew and French and the role of both languages in shaping the cultural identity of medieval French Jewry is the subject of a new book by Kirsten A. Fudeman.

The author will speak at the Library of Congress at noon on Monday, Sept. 20, in the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room, located in the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited.

In “Vernacular Voices: Language and Identity in Medieval French Jewish Communities” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), Fudeman examines the ways in which varieties of Old French and elements of Hebrew from a wide range of sources wove themselves into a language that not only formed the pattern of daily life, but also contributed to the formation of Jewish identity in medieval France.

Among the texts that Fudeman explores in her book—and will discuss in her lecture— are commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud, prayers and wedding songs, medical texts and cooking recipes.

Fudeman earned her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1999 and is currently assistant professor of French language and literature at the University of Pittsburgh. The author of numerous scholarly articles in her field, Fudeman has received several prestigious grants and awards, including the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2002), the American Philosophical Society Franklin Research Grant (2006) and the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend (2010).

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at

The African and Middle Eastern Division furthers this mission as the Library’s center for the study of some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. The Division’s Hebraic Section is one of the world’s foremost centers for the study of Hebrew and Yiddish materials. For more information on the Division and its holdings, visit


PR 10-182
ISSN 0731-3527