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Captured by Texts

Travel Tales of Captivity in Rabbinic Literature

Joshua Levinson

This article examines a travel narrative of sexual captivity in Rome from rabbinic literature of late antiquity. By comparing two textual versions, Palestinian and Babylonian, the article discusses not only the dynamics of cultural identity formation as negotiated in the “contact zone” of captivity, but also the tradition history of this tale as it migrated from late antique Palestine to the rabbinic circles in the Sasanian Empire. While the Palestinian version is a narrative about the reunification of space and identity disrupted by exile, the diasporic rabbinic community in Babylonia creates a fiction of identity despite place; de-territorializing the physical component of place in identity and replacing it with a textual self-fashioning.