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An Interview with Dr. Dean P. Bell, Editor of The Bloomsbury Companion to Jewish Studies

An Interview with Dr. Dean P. Bell, Editor of The Bloomsbury Companion to Jewish Studies

This interview was conducted by the team at Bloomsbury Publishing as part of their ongoing author interview series. The interview is with Dr. Dean P. Bell, Dean and Chief Academic Officer at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. He spoke with them about the process of putting together his latest book, The Bloomsbury Companion to Jewish Studies.

The Bloomsbury Companion to Jewish Studies is a comprehensive reference resource that provides an overview of Jewish Studies as it has developed as an academic sub-discipline. It surveys the development and current state of research in the broad field of Jewish Studies, and focuses on central themes, methodologies and the varieties of source materials available. This is the essential reference guide for anyone working in or exploring the rich and dynamic field of Jewish Studies.

What particular areas of religious studies interest you and why?

I have always been interested in the social and communal dimensions of religious experience and practice. I have also been intrigued by the interaction of different religious communities and traditions, particularly in the Middle Ages and Early Modern periods.

How would you describe your book in one sentence?

An overview of Jewish Studies as it has developed as an academic discipline, providing content related to key periods and themes and resources for further study and exploration.

When did you start researching for this book?

As an edited volume, a good deal of the work began with conceptualizing the book, assessing the areas that needed to be addressed, and identifying the most appropriate contributors and then convincing them to participate. A good deal of time was spent in developing the scope for each essay and working with contributors to achieve balanced essays. The entire project took about three years.

Which part of writing a book have you enjoyed most?

Planning the scope of the volume and assessing the current state of the field, across many disciplines and academic areas. I also enjoyed working with the contributors, who were quite diverse in their approaches and interests, but really learned, thoughtful, thorough, and remarkably easy to work with.

Any tips for people reading the book?

Yes, read it in sections and read it all. Jewish Studies are diverse and each period and topic is exciting for a variety of reasons. There is much to be learned about the broad topics presented, but also about the primary themes and methodologies that are employed in Jewish Studies and the richness and diversity of the sources that are available.

Where will your research go from here?

I am working on two projects: a documentary history of early modern Judaism and Jewish society; and a study of Jewish and Christian responses to natural disasters in early modern Germany.

If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead,
who would it be?

One of the early modern Jews I have studied — such as David Gans or Josel of Rosheim — I would like to learn more about how they lived their lives on a daily basis, beyond what we can know of them and their activities from their limited writings.

The publication date for the The Bloomsbury Companion to Jewish Studies is August 15, 2013 in the UK and October 10, 2013 is the US. 

You can find out more about Dr. Bell’s book, and purchase a copy, here.

If you’d like to find out more about Bloomsbury's other Religious Studies books, check out the latest titles on their website.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bloomsbury Companion to Jewish Studies