GW English Alums on the Move: Jeffrey Gorsky Explores Jewish History in Spain

Jeffrey Gorsky with his daughters
Jeffrey Gorsky graduated with honors in English from GW in 1974; he went on to get a GW law degree and to pursue a varied career in the foreign service. Throughout his travels, his GW experience (especially his time in Judith Plotz’s classroom) stayed with him; and indeed he’s currently a participating member of GW MEMSI (Medieval and Early Modern Study Institute). 

Jeffrey became interested in the history of Jews in Spain while serving as US Vice Consul in Bilbao and as an intelligence analyst for the State Department in Iberia. From this interest grew the comprehensive history book he is working on titled Exiles in Sepharad: The Jewish Millennium in Spain

We asked him to talk a bit about his project:

“The book is a big history (I’m capped at 125,000 words, and I’m cutting back).  It  has a large focus on literature.  I’ve just finished my research and writing, on 11th Century Hebrew poets.  There’s a chapter on the 15th century poet Anton de Montoro, as well as a chapter on how “conversos” in the 16th century helped establish the foundations for the modern novel.  I discuss  La Celestina, Lozana the Lusty Andalusian Woman (a pornographic account of prostitutes in Rome written by a converso priest in 1520), Lazarillo El Tormes, Guzman El Alfarache, and Cervantes.  I also cover the Visigoths, the rise and fall of the Muslim Caliphate, Maimonides, the Kabala, and the Spanish Inquisition.”

The book is an expansive project. Jeffrey commented:

Had I not been an English major at GW I probably would not have had the confidence to engage in extensive discussions of literature. About fifteen percent of the book deals with literature.”

Do you have any ideas for future projects?

God forbid. This took almost ten years. If I ever get any readers, I might reconsider.”
Jeffrey’s book will be published by The Jewish Publication Society/ University of Nebraska Press next year.

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