Organising ‘Medieval Jewish Thought and the Italian Renaissance’

On 12 April 2021, the online conference Medieval Jewish Thought and the Italian Renaissance will take place. This international conference will discuss themes, sources and languages which shaped the transmission of Jewish philosophy from the Iberian Peninsula and Provence to Italy.

In this blog post, we chat with former Warburg PhD student and co-organiser of the conference, Hanna Gentili. Read on to find out a bit more about the programme and what to expect from the day.


Could you tell us a bit about the idea behind this conference?

The idea of this conference was developed during my doctoral studies and reflects the themes, questions and scholarship that shape my research. This is an opportunity to focus on the role of Hebrew philosophical sources in the Italian Renaissance and learn more about some of the latest research in the field. Given the complexity of this field of research, the idea behind this conference is to promote the collaboration and dialogue between Medieval studies, Renaissance studies and Jewish studies. Looking forward, this will hopefully be one of the many occasions to foster Jewish studies in an interdisciplinary context.

How would you describe your research? How does it relate to your wider interests?

My research concerns the reception of Hebrew philosophical and scientific sources in fifteenth-century Italy and its relation to the Latin contemporary context. Studying these sources allows me to better understand an important chapter of the transmission of knowledge that shaped philosophical and religious debates in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin across the Mediterranean for centuries. The language and critical tools that one can acquire through this kind of research are, of course, invaluable research tools for a historian, but they are also fundamental tools in our world today.

Averroes, a closeup of Raphael’s School of Athens
Who might be interested in this conference? Are students encouraged to attend?

This will be a wonderful opportunity for anyone interested in the history of knowledge. During the conference, we will discuss a wide range of topics and there will be abundant time for questions and exchanges. Students are very encouraged to attend; this is an expanding field of research and it is the perfect time to think about new areas of interest and future projects.

Can you tell us more about the benefits of organising an online conference? Any challenges?

The conference was originally scheduled for April 2020 and we were able to reschedule it successfully thanks to the patience of the participants and the efficiency of Jon Millington and the Warburg Institute. The fact that we can provide a cost-free conference for those who wish to attend is certainly one of the great advantages of the online format. On the other hand, however, admitting that we would not meet in person at the Warburg Library was probably the main challenge.

Fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed, Cod. Heb. 37, Royal Danish Library.
What are you most looking forward to in the programme?

The speakers provided fantastic titles and I very much look forward to the questions and exchanges that will develop throughout the day. Don’t miss our opening and closing keynotes! We will open the conference with Professor Yossef Schwartz’s ‘Early Manifestations of Jewish Italian Renaissance and Their Multi-Cultural Dimensions: Hillel ben Samuel ben Elazar of Verona’ and Professor Joanna Weinberg’s ‘Rabbi or Church Father: the Jewish Debate over Philo in Early Modern Italy’; in the afternoon sessions we will discuss psychology, poetics, algebra, natural sciences and biblical criticism with Dr Yehuda Halper, Dr Francesca Gorgoni, Professor Giovanna Cifoletti, Dr Michael Engel and Dr Cedric Cohen Skalli before concluding the day with Professor Giuseppe Veltri’s ‘Jewish Philosophy in Protestant and Calvinist Dissertationesof the Early Modern Period’ and Professor Zev Harvey’s ‘Averroes and Maimonides in Sforno’s Lumen Gentium’.

What resources are available at the Warburg Institute for those interested in the topic of the conference?

The Warburg Library holds a magnificent collection on the medieval and early modern period and it is the perfect place to study and develop new ideas. On the shelves, you can find fundamental primary and secondary sources concerning the transmission of knowledge and the nature of the library facilitates gathering material and making connections. On top of this, the precious advice of professors, staff and readers and the friendly atmosphere among those who work at the Warburg Institute are truly the perfect companions to research.

Why would you recommend the Warburg Institute to prospective PhD students?

The Warburg Institute and its unique library is the perfect place to conduct your research while experiencing a stimulating and friendly environment. During my studies, I had endless opportunities to meet international scholars and I benefitted greatly from the constant exposure to different disciplines. Studying here is also an opportunity to meet researchers at various stages of their career, share your ideas and make friends!

> Find out more about the conference and book your free place

> Find out more about our PhD course


Hanna Gentili obtained her MA in Philosophy at the University of Pisa and joined the Warburg Institute as a PhD student with a thesis entitled ‘The Reception of Aristotle in the Work of Yohanan Alemanno: Peripatetic Sources in MS Reggio 23’. She is now working on kabbalistic manuscripts in the digital humanities project ‘Ilanot’ based at the University of Haifa.