The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Tanhuma–Yelammedenu Spin-off, or Independent Genre? New Perspectives on Some Minor Medieval Midrashim

The so-called "Minor" or "Medieval Midrashim" are a literary corpus to which about three hundred individual texts are assigned. They share the common feature that they were written in the post-rabbinic period and so far largely elude existing categorizations of Jewish literature. Research to this day largely relies on the scholars of the 19th-20th centuries who published and discussed the "Minor Midrashim" in comprehensive anthologies. A fully revised analysis of the texts that uses, among other things, the tools of Digital Humanities, opens up a new set of perspectives on the corpus. For individual subgroups of the collection, previously unrecognized commonalities in the history of development and distribution of the texts are revealed in this way. One common feature is the striking proximity to the Tanhuma-Yelammedenu literature. Especially on a narrative level, there are clear overlaps. The relationship between Tanhuma-Yelammedenu materials and (subgroups of) the "Minor Midrashim" has never been examined in detail from a genre-theoretical perspective. The paper addresses the question to what extent some of these "Medieval Minor Midrashim" represent a late form of Tanhuma-Yelammedenu literature, or whether they formally deviate too clearly from this genre to be considered a spin-off.