Dr Maria Czepiel (Lecturer in Spanish) has won the 2023 SNLS Ann Moss Early Career Essay Prize for her essay ‘Jewish Scholarship in the Lyric Poetry of Benito Arias Montano (ca. 1525–1598)’.
Her essay looked at the sixteenth century Hebraist Benito Arias Montano, who believed that Hebrew was the oldest language in the world and the one spoken by the Holy Spirit. However, in a country which had expelled its Jewish population in the previous century, excessive enthusiasm for Hebrew works could lead to accusations of 'judaizing' (indeed, Arias Montano got into trouble with the Inquisition). Maria argued that in his poetry, Arias Montano uses rabbinical sources to explain the symbolic meaning of the rituals mandated in the Old Testament on their own terms, rather than just as prefigurations of Christianity, as was the predominant view among Christian theologians. However, she also showed how Arias Montano was a man of his time, and that elsewhere he portrays Jewish learning as deliberately obscure and sophistic.