Episode 67: How Jews Translate the Bible and Why

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Leonard Greenspoon, Professor of Near Eastern Civilizations and Klutznick Chair in Jewish Civilization, Creighton University

Saadia Gaon (882-942) is considered the father of Judeo-Arabic literature; his translation of the Bible into Arabic enabled the large portion of Judaism living in Arabic speaking lands to engage with the sacred texts.

Any student of a foreign language knows that the process of translating a text can be laden with unexpected choices about words, sentence structure, and phrases that don’t make sense in the target language. Now imagine the added pressures of translating a sacred text whose language is well known and imbued with religious significance and symbolism. Our guest Leonard Greenspoon from Creighton University has done just that with translators of the Jewish Bible over the centuries.

In this episode, Dr. Greespoon takes us on a fascinating journey into a Jewish perspective on how and why translating the Bible is necessary, and how and why it matters.

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Episode 37: The Ottoman Balkans

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Mary Neuburger, Professor, Department of History

Southeastern Europe, or the Balkans, grabbed headlines in the 1990s after the collapse of communism with the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the bloody conflicts that followed. At the time, much was made of the region’s unique history, having been separated from Europe and languishing under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. But, was this really the cause of the conflict in the 20th century? What was life in southeastern Europe like under the Ottomans?

Guest Mary Neuburger walks us through current historical thinking about the five hundred year legacy of Ottoman rule in southeastern Europe, and gives us an alternate explanation for the turbulence of the 19th and 20th centuries.

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Episode 30: Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past & Professor, Department of History
Guest: Denise A. Spellberg, Professor, Department of History

TJQIn 2006, Keith Ellison, a newly elected congressman from the state of Minnesota, and the first Muslim elected to Congress, took his oath of office on a Qur’an from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. Why did one of the founding fathers own a Qur’an?  What was his opinion of it? And how did it influence his ideas about concepts of religious liberty that would eventually be enshrined in the Constitution?

Guest Denise A. Spellberg, author of a new book called Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, sheds light on a little known facet of American history: our earliest imaginings of and engagements with the Islamic world, and comes to some surprising conclusions about the extend of religious freedoms envisioned by one of the key founding fathers.

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Episode 26: History of the Ottoman Empire, Part I

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Barbara Petzen, Director, Middle East Connections

The Ottoman Empire has long captured the public imagination in a way that few other royal houses and empires have managed to do. From the days when its armies threatened the gates of Vienna, its long-rumored decline as the “sick man of Europe,” and the Taksim demonstrations of 2013 when Turkish Prime Minsiter Erdo?an was accused of “neo-Ottomanism,” the legacy that the Empire left is long and vast. But who were the Ottomans? Why were they so successful?  And why have they lasted so long in the public’s imagination?

In the first of a two part series, guest Barbara Petzen helps to shed some light on the origins and rise of the empire that rivaled Europe for centuries. Turkish in origin, the Ottoman state at its best reveled in its diversity and played up the strengths of its multi-confessional multi-ethnic population.

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Episode 18: Eugenics

Host: Joan Neuberger, Department of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Philippa Levine, Professor; Mary Helen Thompson Centennial Professorship in the Humanities; Co-Director British Studies Program

Harry H. Laughlin, The Second International Exhibition of Eugenics held September 22 to October 22, 1921, in connection with the Second International Congress of Eugenics in the American Museum of Natural History, New York (Baltimore: William & Wilkins Co., 1923).

Early in the twentieth century, governments all over the world thought they had found a rational, efficient, and scientific solution to the related problems of poverty, crime, and hereditary illness.  Scientists hoped they might be able to help societies control the social problems that arose from these phenomena. All over the world, the science-turned-social-policy known as eugenics became a base-line around which social services and welfare legislation were organized.

Philippa Levine, co-editor of a newly published book on the history of eugenics, explains the appeal and wide-reaching effects of the eugenics movement, which at its best inspired access to pre-natal care, access to clean water, and the eradication of harmful diseases, but at its worst led to compulsory sterilization laws, and the horrific experiments of the Nazi death camps.

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Episode 10: The Spanish Inquisition

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History and Editor, Not Even Past
Guest: Miriam Bodian, Professor, Department of History

Auto de fé, Plaza Mayor, Madrid, 1683

The Spanish Inquisition has cast a long shadow in the public imagination, with Inquisitors playing the role of villain on stage and screen. But what was the Inquisition-really? Established in 1480 to deal with heresies under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the Spanish Inquisition was a highly regulated institution with enormous political and legal power whose influence reached all the way to the Americas for over three hundred years.

Guest Miriam Bodian from UT’s Department of History separates truth from legend and reveals the intricacies of the Inquisition’s processes and inner workings.

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