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Lital Levy – World Literature, Translation, and Diaspora: The Intimately Global Journey of Grace Aguilar’s The Vale of Cedars

November 10, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm  |  Virtual and In Person


This talk follows the translation history of the Anglo-Jewish author Grace Aguilar’s 1850 novel The Vale of Cedars from Victorian England to Mainz, Warsaw, Vilna, Calcutta, and Tunis. A case study for Levy’s broader project on “Global Haskalah,” it brings together Sephardic studies, world literature and translation studies, transnational literary history, and Jewish literary studies. Through this project, Levy argues for two interventions: a rethinking of the nation-centered model of world literature, and a revision of the Eurocentric narrative of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment). The novel’s history begins with a work of minor literature by a Sephardic Englishwoman about a quintessential minority topic: crypto-Jews in the Spanish Inquisition. Originally intended as a refutation of English conversionists, by the end of the century the novel had appeared in multiple free translations into Hebrew, Yiddish, and Judeo-Arabic, refashioned to instill their readers with pride in historical Jewish nobility and martyrdom. In addition to mapping the book’s journey and elucidating the cultural markers of its myriad translations, the talk will foreground the Calcutta Judeo-Arabic edition and its social-historical context.


Lital Levy is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University, where she teaches comparative literature and theory, Hebrew literature, Arabic literature, and Jewish studies. Her work integrates literary and cultural studies with intellectual history and religious thought. She is the author of Poetic Trespass: Writing between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine (Princeton University Press, 2014), which won the MLA Prize for a First Book and awards from the AAJR and AJS. She is currently completing The Jewish Nahda, an intellectual history of Arab Jews and modernity.

The Center for Cultural Studies hosts a weekly Wednesday colloquium featuring work by faculty and visitors. We gather at 12:00 PM, with presentations beginning at 12:15 PM.

For Fall 2021, the colloquium will take a hybrid format. Attendees have the option to attend in person in Humanities 210 or to watch the presentation on zoom. Those who attend in person must adhere to the campus mask mandate for all indoor activities and must complete UCSC’s symptom-check form before coming to campus. In person attendees are asked to please arrive at 12pm so that the event coordinators can verify the symptom check has been completed. To attend remotely via zoom, please RSVP in advance, and you will receive a zoom link on the morning of the colloquium. In most cases, speakers will appear remotely so that they will not have to present wearing a mask. To RSVP for the full Fall colloquium series, please use this form. If you have any questions about the colloquium, please contact Piper Milton (

Staff assistance is provided by The Humanities Institute.


November 10, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm