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Dorothee Metlitzki (1914–2001)

Author of The Matter of Araby in Medieval England

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Dorothee Metlitzki was born to a German-Russian Jewish family in Koenigsburg, then in Germany, and spent her childhood in Lithuania and various other places in Eastern Europe. Fleeing the Nazi regime, she emigrated to England. She received undergraduate and graduate degrees at University College of London, studying both English and Arabic literature. One of her classmates was Abba Eban, who later became the first Foreign Minister of Israel. She became an active Zionist and in 1938, at age 24, travelled to British-controlled Palestine to perfect her languages and immerse herself in the culture. She befriended academics and intellectuals and co-founded the English Department at the Hebrew University; she also made many Arab friends. In 1944, she married Paul Kraus, an Arabist, who committed suicide a few months later. She then married Boris (Bernhard) Grdseloff, Kraus’s friend and an Egyptologist, with whom she had a daughter. Grdseloff died of cancer in 1950. She spent the next few years as an informal ambassador for Israel abroad and working with local Arab women. In 1953, wanting to return to the academic life, she moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where she earned a Ph.D. at Yale University. She married Jacob Finklestein, an Assyriologist, with whom she moved to the University of California at Berkeley; the marriage ended in divorce in 1972. She became a noted philologist and medievalist with fluency in 8 languages. Her most important work was considered The Matter of Araby in Medieval England (1977), which traced the introduction of Arabic and Greek science and ideas into medieval England. She taught at Yale University for many years, and after her retirement in 1984 continued to advise students.
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