Dr. Katelyn Mesler

Ph.D., Religious Studies

Northwestern University

 

Contact

kate.mesler@mail.huji.ac.il

 

Research Interests

My research concerns the transmission of knowledge and practices between Jews and Christians in medieval Europe (11th to 15th centuries). In my work so far, I have found the fields of science and magic to offer particularly valuable insight into Jewish-Christian contacts and transmission. For example, I identified incantations in the Latin medical tradition that contained explicit reference to Christian traditions. I then traced not only the translation of these passages but also the subsequent reception of them in Hebrew. This study revealed, among other things, that Jews were often willing to retain these Christian materials in their texts, and some went so far as to seek out the original Latin wording of the incantations in order to ensure their efficacy. In another study, I introduced three seemingly unrelated Hebrew texts on the powers of engraved stones: one retaining several Anglo-Norman terms, another bearing traces of a Spanish milieu, and a third written in Italian in Hebrew characters. These texts, I demonstrated, are all related to a Latin astrological lapidary, the Techel/Azareus Complex, whose contents fluctuate from one copy to the next.

 

At the Edelstein Center, I am examining the transmission and reception of Salernitan medicine in Hebrew. Towards the end of the eleventh century, Constantine the African began the task of translating key works of Greco-Arabic medicine into Latin. These works soon began to shape the practice and writings of the early medical school of Salerno. In contrast, the Jews of Christian Europe had almost no access to treatises of learned medicine in a language they could read. The situation changed at the end of the twelfth century with the appearance of a figure as remarkable as he is enigmatic. Between the years 1197 and 1199, a Provençal physician, translator, and repentant convert to Christianity, writing under the Biblical pseudonym “Doeg the Edomite,” completed Latin-into-Hebrew translations of twenty-four of the most important works of theoretical and practical medicine, thereby bringing the thought of Hippocrates, Galen, Soranos of Ephesus, Isaac Israeli, Ibn al-Jazzar, the Salerno school, and more into Hebrew for the first time. Notably, Doeg’s ambitious project represents the earliest known translation of non-Jewish scientific texts into Hebrew. My project aims to situate Doeg and his work as a mediator between the Latin medicine of the eleventh and twelfth centuries that inspired him and the Hebrew medicine that he, in turn, inspired.

 

Publications

Edited Volumes

•Elisheva Baumgarten, Ruth Mazo Karras, and Katelyn Mesler, eds. Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Transmission in Thirteenth-Century Jewish Cultures. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming.

 

Articles

•Kati Ihnat and Katelyn Mesler. “From Christian Devotion to Jewish Sorcery: The Curious History of Wax Figurines in Medieval Europe.” In Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Transmission in Thirteenth-Century Jewish Cultures, edited by Elisheva Baumgarten, Ruth Mazo Karras, and Katelyn Mesler. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming.

•“The Medieval Lapidary of Techel/Azareus on Engraved Stones and Its Jewish Appropriations.” Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism 14, no. 2 (2014): 75-143.

•“The Three Magi and Other Christian Motifs in Medieval Hebrew Medical Incantations: A Study in the Limits of Faithful Translation.” In Latin-into-Hebrew – Studies and Texts, vol. 1: Studies, edited by Resianne Fontaine and Gad Freudenthal. Leiden: Brill, 2013. pp. 161-218.

•“The Liber iuratus Honorii and the Christian Reception of Angel Magic.” In Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries, edited by Claire Fanger. University Park: Penn State Press, 2012. pp. 113-50.

•“The Epistle of Merlin on the Popes: A New Source on the Late Medieval Notion of the Angel Pope.” Traditio: Studies in Ancient and Medieval History, Thought, and Religion 65 (2010): 107-76.

•“John of Rupescissa’s Engagement with Prophetic Texts in the Sexdequiloquium.” Oliviana: Mouvements et dissidences spirituels, XIIIe-XIVe siècles 3 (2009). http://oliviana.revues.org/index331.html

•Robert E. Lerner and Katelyn Mesler. “Selective Bibliography of Studies and Editions of High and Late Medieval Latin Eschatological Prophecies, Excluding Works by Joachim of Fiore: 1990–2008.” Oliviana: Mouvements et dissidences spirituels, XIIIe-XIVe siècles 3 (2009). http://oliviana.revues.org/index347.html

•“Imperial Prophecy and Papal Crisis: The Latin Reception of The Prophecy of the True Emperor.” La Rivista di storia della Chiesa in Italia 61, no. 2 (2007): 371-415.

 

Book Reviews

•Review of Béatrice Delaurenti, La Puissance des mots, «Virtus verborum»: Débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen Âge. In Médiévales 57 (2009): 165-67. http://medievales.revues.org/5821

 

Web Exhibits

•“If You Find an Engraved Stone: The Transmission of Science and Magic.” In 13th Century Entanglements: Judaism, Christianity & Islam, An Online Exhibition from the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies (2013). http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/cajs/fellows13/cajs2013.html#Mesler

 

Ph.D., Religious Studies

Northwestern University

ter for Advanced Judaic Studies (2013). http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/cajs/fellows13/cajs2013.html#Mesler