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Forging the Didactics of Sefardic Language and Literature.

"Forging the Didactics of Sefardic Language and Literature" attempts to establish criteria for the instruction of Judeo-Spanish and its literature as a didactic unit. The problem of the future of the Sefardic language lies, among other factors, in our capacity to develop adequate projects for the language learning process. From February to April 2000 a course was given at the University of Tartu, Estonia, thanks to the generosity of the Soros Foundation. This article establishes the objectives, the methodology, and the themes for classroom instruction. The final objective of the course is to demonstrate that the Judeo-Spanish language and its culture are suitable material for instruction at any university.

Thanks to the generosity of the Soros Foundation, the Department of Hispanic Philology at the University of Tartu, Estonia, employed me to teach a course in Sefardic language and literature during the Spring term of the year 2000.

Trying to teach a course such as this in a non-hispanic country involves the introduction of a didactic method which is acceptable regarding not only the contents and objectives of the course, but also the context in which it will be delivered.

Obviously, the student in such a course should have at the very least a minimal knowledge of the Spanish language and literature. For this reason, the course will be offered to students in their last year of study for a degree in Hispanic Philology.

The idea of including Sefardic studies in the coursework of these future hispanicists seems appropriate not only from an academic point of view, but also for the cultural awareness of those students who wish to obtain a more global knowledge of the hispanic world and a culture which is shared by more than 500 million Spanish speakers in today's world.

Contents of the Course

Despite possible gaps, we have structured the course according to three main points upon which we feel the Sefardic cultural world is structured. The course is divided into three blocks: history, language, and literature. The first block, History, has been in its turn subdivided into four sections. [1]

In the first we will study the concept of sefardismo, the meaning of the word itself. Towards this end we will look at the history of the Jewish people in Spain, their origins, main figures, and the most important historical events until the Expulsion in 1492. Likewise, we will review the problems of Crypto-Judaism and the Inquisition.

The second section will deal with the displacement of Hispanic Jews to North Africa and the centers of the Eastern Mediterranean basin.

In the third section we will study the development and the historical evolution of the Sefardim in two phases: from the fifteenth until the eighteenth century, pointing out the figure of the false Messiah Sabbetai Zvi as well as the importance of Sefardic life in the Ottoman Empire; and from the eighteenth until the twentieth century, where we will highlight the nationalist movements of the nineteenth century, the migratory currents towards America, the birth of Zionism, and the tragedy that the Nazi policy of extermination meant for the Sefardic world.

The fourth and last section deals with the history of the Sefardim and the contemporary world; the birth of the state of Israel, and the present communities in Europe, Israel, and America, as well as the main organizations that are active in the recuperation of the Sefardic patrimony (la Federacion Mundial Sefardi, La Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino, Vidas Largas, etc.).

The second block, dedicated to the Judeo-Spanish language, is possibly the most difficult to organize. Nonetheless, we will try to benefit from previous experience in this field. [2] We have divided this block into six sections: in the first we will look at the history of Judeo-Spanish, its birth and evolution, the names of the language, giving special emphasis to the most archaic aspects which link it with the fifteenth century Spanish as well as the influx of words of non-hispanic origin. We will briefly attempt to distinguish between eastern Judec-Spanish and dialects in North Africa, e.g. haketia. Likewise, taking note of Haim Vidal Sephiha's theories, we will differentiate between Ladino and spoken Judeo-Spanish. [3] We will also attempt to familiarize the students with Rashi graphics and script so that they are able to identify, recognize, and interpret Judeo-Spanish texts with Rashi characters, even though we will use the graphic system of "Aki Yerushalayim" for most texts.

The second section will be dedicated to the study of Judeo-Spanish verbs: the formation of verbs with hispanic roots and those verbs of eastern origin which have in turn been hispanicized. Special attention will be given to systems and modes of conjugation. A third section will be dedicated to the fixed forms of the language, in which we will study pronouns, prepositions, and adverbs. The formation and agreement of Judeo-Spanish nouns and adjectives will be studied in the fourth section. [4] Questions of syntax will be dealt with in the fifth section: i.e., the formation of sentences, coordination and subordination, as well as syntactic forms for the expression of doubt, comparisons, questions, farewells, greetings, statements, etc. The sixth and last section will be dedicated to the presence of Judeo-Spanish in the world of today: the principal centers of instruction, the number of speakers, Judeo-Spanish in the media, etc.

The third and last block is dedicated to Sefardic literature. In the first section we will establish a chronological division of this literature, emphasizing the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries as the Golden Age and the twentieth century as decline. [5]

The second section will be dedicated to the study and analysis of the romances (ballads), cop/as (couplets), and Sefardic cantigas. [6] These readings will be supplemented with commentated auditions of selected texts. [7]

In the third section we will study the main Judeo-Spanish masterpiece: the Meam Loez. [8] Time will be allotted to the study of the genesis of the text, its authors, and commentaries of selected exerpts.

The fourth section will undertake the Judeo-Spanish collection of proverbs, paying attention to the classification of themes and motifs. [9] The fifth section will be dedicated to the art of Sefardic story-telling, focusing on the classification of story types, their structure, and survival. We will devote a disproportionate amount of time studying the stories of Djoha.

In the sixth section we will discuss the "adopted" genres: the theater (character), the novel (translations and original novel writing), and the press (main editorial centers, themes, etc.).

The seventh and last section is, perhaps, the most important in this block, since we will study in it contemporary creative writing in Judeo-Spanish. We will take a look at the principal authors of our day in the fields of poetry, theater, and narrative. [10] Likewise, we will consider the current Sefardic press which uses Judeo-Spanish as its medium, focusing on the efforts of "Aki Yerushalayim" and "Shalom" in Turkey among others.

2. Objectives of the Course

We have structured the objectives of the course taking into account the previously outlined three blocks. The objectives which we are trying to achieve with the course are:

2.1. History:

Be familiar with the Jewish reality in medieval Spain.

Determine and identify the principal historical events in the Sefardic world from the Expulsion in 1492.

Analyze the consequences of the Nazi Holocaust with respect to the world of Judeo-Spanish.

Assess the current situation in the Sefardi world: the revival movements.

2.2 The Judeo-Spanish Language

Identify the phonetic, morphological, and syntactic features of Judeo-Spanish.

Determine the influences which have been operative in Juedeo-Spanish.

Know how to speak and understand Judeo-Spanish.

Apply the skills acquired in previous modules to the analysis of texts.

Explore the possibilities of expression in Judeo-Spanish.

2.3 Judeo-Spanish Literature

Determine the origins of Sefardic literature.

Recognize and classify the main literary genres.

Identify themes and structures in the principal genres.

Determine the similarities and differences with other literatures.

Know and assess the importance of Sefardic literature in the hispanic world.

Analyze and recognize Sefardic texts.

3. Methodology

In this course we find ourselves--it has to be said--faced with more than a few difficulties: the students will not be able to consult bibliographies on their own, which will prevent them from reading masters of this literature as well as comparing and integrating information. In order to resolve linguistic problems it will be necessary to consult the guidelines laid out by the professor to search for those aspects which are most important for understanding the program.

Among other methods which we are going to use, it is necessary to highlight in particular the use of Judeo-Spanish texts, the grouping together of literary works for the formation and presentation of certain genres, and the motivation of students through a final debate that will implant in them a critical and objective sense of the forms of expression and the survival of the Judeo-Spanish legacy.

One very important aspect of the course is listening to sefardic songs and viewing Judeo-Spanish videos. This will expose the students to the sefardic linguistic reality and to the unique characteristics of Judeo-Spanish, and allow them to systematize the material, all of which should lead to a phase in which they capture the main concepts.

Another important aspect will be the attention given to the analysis of literary texts, whereby we will constantly review points already covered. This will allow the students to observe linguistic characteristics, the induction of tendencies, the cataloguing of texts, and the use of a specific terminology.

We will attempt to motivate the student through the expressive reading of excerpts from the Sefardic literary heritage. The student should be active, but active in the sense of significant and constructive learning. This means the students will formulate hypotheses and test their veracity by reading the most recent studies in the field. Results of their research will be pooled together for conclusions to be drawn. This implies the comprehensive memorization of what has been learned, presupposes critical reflection on the part of the student, and involves the functionality of the course as a point of departure for further learning.

We have endeavored to create a logical and coherent learning target so that the student will be able to give it meaning and integrate it into his or her cognitive structure of the hispanic world.

From our point of view, it is very important that the student not perceive the course as just another class offered by the university. Instead, students should see the course as a doorway to the Sefardic world-the first step towards the possibility of communication with enclaves from numerous countries, not exclusively restricted to the hispanic realm.

Finally, the last objective of the course is to demonstrate that the Sefardic world and its cultural legacy may be conveyed through didactic units in any university environment, and in particular one that considers hispanic culture to be increasingly globalized.

Translated from the orginal Spanish by Bruce Mitchell

(1.) For the make-up of this block: Paloma Diaz-Mas, Los sefardies, historia, lengua y cultura (Riopiedras, 1993); Haim Vidal Sephiha, L 'agonie des judeo-espagnol (Entente, 1979); Haim Vidal Sephiha, Le judeo-espagnol (Entente, 1986).

Salvador Santa Puche (Yecla, 1971) is Doctor of Spanish Philology, a title which he was awarded for his thesis dealing with Sefardic literary creativity. He has published several studies on Judeo-Sanish literature and linguistics and is the author of a literary textbook, Introduccion ala literatura de los judios sefardies (1998) as well as Antolojia de poetas sefaradis kontempraneos (1999). He is currently the director of the "Neveh Shalom" collection of Judeo-Spanish books and was a visiting professor at the University of Tartu, where he taught a course in Judeo-Spanish language and literature during the Spring term of the year 2000.

(2.) Of great usefulness will be the experience of teaching Judeo-Spanish at INALCO Paris; Liceo Amalia, Israel; etc. as well as teaching practice at various universities, principally in Israel. We use the following grammar manuals: Shmuel Refael y Erella Gattegno, Curso avansado y superior de judeo-espanol (Bar-Ilan) University, 1996); Marie-Christine Varol, Manuel de judeo-espagnol (L' Asiatheque, 1998); Matilda Koen-Sarano, Tabelas de verbos en djudeo-espanyol (Jerusalem, 1999).

(3.) Haim Vidal Sephiha, Le Ladino, Deuteronomme, Doctoral Thesis (Paris: La Sorbonne, 1973).

(4.) Obviously, there is no Judeo-Spanish dictionary with translations into Estonian, In order to remedy this lack, each student will make his or her own short dictionary of basic vocabulary items. This lexicon will be organized according to semantic fields. Nonetheless, some dictionaries published until now will be given some attention: Perahya, Clara y Elie, Dictionaire du judeo-espagnol (L'Asiatheque, 1998).

(5.) Elena Romero, La creacion literaria en lengua sefardi (Mapfre, 1992).

(6.) Elena Romero, Bibliografia analitica de ediciones de coplas sefardies (CSIC, 1992); Samuel G. Armistead, El romancero en el archivo Menendez Pidal (Madrid, 1978).

(7.) Joaquin Diaz, Kantes djudeo-espanyoles (Tecnosaga, 1986); Los Pasharos sefaradis, Kantikas para syempre (1997); Matilda Koen-Sarano, Nostaljia (1996); Matilda Koen-Sarano, Sefaradis de dor en dor (1999); A Ballare, Cantos sefardies (1998).

(8.) For the texts taken from Meam Loez we will use the Pascual Recuero edition which uses the Gredos phonetic alphabet (1968). Adaptations using the "Aki Yerushalayim" orthography will be made for the students.

(9.) Enrique Saporta y Beja, Refranes de los judios sefardies (Barcelona, 1978).

(10.) Among the selected texts are: Avner Perez, Verdjel de mansanas (Jerusalem, 1996); Sara Benveniste Benrey, Purim (1995); Matilda Koen-Sarano, Djoha, ke dize? Jerusalem: Kana, 1996); Matilda Koen-Sarano, Sefaradis de dor en dor (Jerusalem, 1999); Eliezer Papo, La Megila de Saray, (Author's edition, 1999); Salvador Santa Puche, Antolojia de poetas sefaradis kontemporaneos, ed. Capitelum (Valencia. 1999).
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Author:Puche, Dr. Salvador Santa
Publication:Shofar
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Words:2256
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