Prof. Jon Whitman teaches in the Department of English of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For many years he also directed the Center for Literary Studies of the University.
He received his B.A. (summa cum laude) from Columbia University; his B.Phil. from the University of Oxford; and his A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.
In addition to teaching in the United States and Israel, he has held appointments as a Sesquicentennial Associate of the Center for Advanced Studies of the University of Virginia; a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities; a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University; and a Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
His research explores the interplay between conceptual and literary changes from antiquity to the modern period.
One of the focal points of his research has been the process by which texts acquire changing meanings in allegory. He is the author of Allegory: The Dynamics of an Ancient and Medieval Technique, co-published by Oxford University Press and Harvard University Press in 1987; the editor of Interpretation and Allegory: Antiquity to the Modern Period, published by Brill in 2000; and the author of a range of articles on major allegorical texts and movements.
Another focus of his research has been the relationship between changing forms of literary expression and varying perspectives on time and history, with a particular emphasis on the development of romance. His studies of romance and related subjects have appeared in New Medieval Literatures, MLN, and a variety of other settings. For an article in Arthuriana he received the James Randall Leader Prize for the outstanding article in the journal that year. A collective study that he edited, Romance and History: Imagining Time from the Medieval to the Early Modern Period, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.
A major subject of his current research is the intersection between changes in attitude toward scriptural language and critical theories of imaginative expression. With the support of a grant from the Israel Science Foundation, he is presently conducting a multiyear research project entitled "The Literal Sense: Scriptural Interpretation, Poetics, and Historical Change."
As an invited speaker he has given presentations at Cornell University, Mount Holyoke College, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and other institutions. In 2015 he was one of the keynote speakers in China at a summer institute associated with Renmin University of China, and in 2016 he gave the Faber Lecture for the Committee on Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at Princeton University.
His university courses have examined subjects ranging from philosophic and literary developments in the Middle Ages; to works by major English authors (including Shakespeare and Milton); to formative texts in broad critical categories (epic; romance; allegory; lyric); to strategies of style (including features of political prose from the eighteenth to the twentieth century); to literary theory from antiquity to modernity. At the Hebrew University he has received recognition from the office of the Rector for excellence in teaching.
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