What development in Jewish studies over the last twenty years has most excited you?

David M. Stern

University of Pennsylvania

Over the last twenty years, Jewish studies has undergone so complete a sea change in virtually all its fields that it's hard for me to single out a single development from so many. The sea change itself has come from the final assimilation of Jewish studies within the American academy, the humanities in particular. Most of the changes Jewish studies has undergone reflect those in the humanities at large—the breakdown of traditional disciplinary walls, the imperializing spread of critical theory, the growth of "identity studies" of every stripe. There are negative and positive sides to all these developments, though I think the overall balance has been extremely con- structive. In all these changes, rabbinics has, somewhat ironically, played the role of the avant-garde, beginning with midrash. The fifteen minutes of fame that midrash and its encounter with literary theory (and theorists) enjoyed some twenty years ago was certainly one of the more exciting developments in which I have personally participated. More recently, the development of a small group of Jewish studies scholars interested in the his- tory of the Jewish book as a material object—a new subfield that truly crosses disciplinary borders with intellectual credibility and integrity—is what currently excites and engages me most; it will be interesting to see where this field is and how it changes other fields in Jewish studies twenty years from now.