This chapter examines the methodologies, new approaches, and challenges in the use of rabbinic literature to study the history of Judaism in late antiquity. It provides some examples that demonstrate some of the issues concerning the applicability of rabbinic literature to the study of Judaism in late-Roman Palestine. It concludes that rabbinic literature can serve as a historical source, especially when read indirectly and through the lens of well-defined theoretical frameworks, and when perceived as a (...) rabbinic cultural product that reflects delicate, sophisticated and hardly recoverable relationships between text and reality. (shrink)
This volume contains essays dealing with complex relationships between Judaism and Christianity, taking a bold step, assuming that no historical period can be excluded from the interactive process between Judaism and Christianity, conscious or unconscious, as either rejection or appropriation.
The aim of this study is twofold. Firstly, it intends to highlight the value of constructivist insights for religious studies by showing that various forms of approach to issues related to religion are mere constructs. In contrast to this viewpoint, the discipline of religious studies had traditionally sought a higher degree of objectivity in the scientific reflection of religious topics, but that has been a fraught path. Secondly, the example it refers to is worthy in itself. The reception of (...) class='Hi'>Judaism in contemporary China is not only an under-investigated topic endowed with a great potential to reveal to what extent the Chinese ordinary man as well as the academic succeed to understand Western thought and to differentiate among the varied cultural traditions generally subsumed by them under the notion Western, but it also shows that the constructivist approaches preserve their validity in non-European contexts as well. Judaism’s reception in contemporary China will be pursued on four different levels: popular literature, fake books, articles in the Christian Chinese media and academic productions. The four categories of texts represent four different degrees of comprehension of the object of study, primarily offering information about the worldviews of the authors of the texts. The process of reception of thought is regarded as a form of encounter where the active part is striving to get out of its own mindset and move towards the other. (shrink)
Jean-Claude Milner’s Le sage trompeur (2013), a controversial recent piece of French Spinoza literature, remains regrettably understudied in the English-speaking world. Adopting Leo Strauss’ esoteric reading method, Milner alleges that Spinoza dissimulates his genuine analysis of the causes of the persecution and survival of the Jewish people within a brief “manifesto” found at the end of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (TTP), Chapter 3. According to Milner, Spinoza holds that the Jewish people themselves are responsible for the hatred of the Jewish (...) people, and that the engine of their longevity is the hatred they engender. Additionally, claims Milner, Spinoza covertly insinuates that the solution to this persistent state of hatred consists in the mass apostasy of the Jewish people under the leadership of a Sabbatai Zevi-like figure. This article presents the Milner–Spinoza controversy to the English-speaking public along with the larger context of French-language scholarship on Spinoza’s relation to Judaism. While refuting Milner’s reading of Spinoza, I simultaneously clarify relevant elements of Spinoza’s discussions of Judaism in the TTP, such as Spinoza’s examination of Jewish identity and the nature of divine election, Spinoza’s understanding of the causes of national hatred, and Spinoza’s appeals to Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, and Turkish political history. (shrink)
At a time when bioethical issues are at the top of public and political agendas, there is a renewed interest in representations of the embryo in various religious traditions. One of the major traditions that have contributed to Western representations of the embryo is the Jewish tradition. This tradition poses some difficulties that may deter scholars, but also presents some invaluable advantages. These derive from two components, the search for limits and narrativity, both of which are directly connected with the (...) manner in which Jewish tradition was constructed in Antiquity. The article accomplishes three goals: • To introduce some central elements in ancient Rabbinic literature on the subject of the embryo and its representation; • To present this body of literature as clearly as possible, noting some of the difficulties encountered by scholars who engage in its study; • To explain how the literature’s textuality came about, examining the particular sociopolitical circumstances of Judaism at that time, including the reasons for the delay in the production of scientific texts, transmitted as such, as compared to other philosophical or religious traditions. The claim is that these circumstances engendered a tradition peculiarly relevant for the study and teaching of medical ethics today. (shrink)
One of the central concepts in rabbinic Judaism is the notion of the 'Evil Inclination', which appears to be related to similar concepts in ancient Christianity and the wider late antique world. The precise origins and understanding of the idea, however, are unknown. This volume traces the development of this concept historically in Judaism and assesses its impact on emerging Christian thought concerning the origins of sin. The essays, which cover a wide range of sources including the Bible, (...) the Ancient Versions, Qumran, Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha, the Targums Rabbinic and Patristic literature, advance our understanding of the intellectual exchange between Jews and Christians in classical Antiquity, as well as the intercultural exchange between these communities and the societies in which they were situated. (shrink)
The prevailing historiographies of Jewish life in England suggest that religious representations of the Jews in the early modern period were confined to the margins and fringes of society by the desacralization of English life. Such representations are mostly neglected in the scholarly literature for the latter half of the long eighteenth century, and English Methodist texts in particular have received little attention. This article addresses these lacunae by examining the discourse of Adam Clarke, an erudite Bible scholar, theologian, (...) preacher and author and a prominent, respected, Methodist scholar. Significantly, the more overt demonological representations were either absent from Clarke‘s discourse, or only appeared on a few occasions, and were vague as to who or what was signified. However, Clarke portrayed biblical Jews as perfidious, cruel, murderous, an accursed seed, of an accursed breed and radically and totally evil. He also commented on contemporary Jews, maintaining that they were foolish, proud, uncharitable, intolerant and blasphemous. He argued that in their eternal, wretched, dispersed condition, the Jews demonstrated the veracity of biblical prophecy, and served an essential purpose as living monuments to the truth of Christianity. (shrink)
Challenging earlier cognitivist approaches, recent theories of embodied cognition argue that the human mind and its functions are best understood as intimately bound up with the human body and its physiological dimensions. Some scholars have suggested that such theories, in departing from some core assumptions of the Western philosophical tradition, display significant similarities to certain non-Western traditions of thought, such as Buddhism. This essay extends such parallels to the Jewish tradition and argues that, in particular, classical rabbinic thought presents a (...) profoundly nondualistic account of the body–soul relation in its connection to cognition, action, and embodiment. Classical rabbinic texts therefore model the possibility of engaging with ‘Western’ conceptions such as God and the soul, while doing so in a manner that resonates strongly with many aspects of contemporary scientific theories. Thus, beyond their value as historical documents, insight into the texts and concepts of classical rabbinic Judaism can contribute to the further development of new theories of intellect and cognition. (shrink)
Numinous spaces in British literature from William Wordsworth to Samuel Beckett -- Jesus figures in American literature from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Edward Albee -- Using Bakhtin's definitions to discover ethical voices in Solzhenitsyn and Tolstoy -- René Girard's categories of scapegoats in literature of the American South -- Hopkins's metaphysics of nature as sacred disclosure -- The book of job as mirrored in Hopkins's metaphysics -- Beckett's mythos of the absence of God.
The idea of creation in the divine image has a long and complex history. While its roots apparently lie in the royal myths of Mesopotamia and Egypt, this book argues that it was the biblical account of creation presented in the first chapters of Genesis and its interpretation in early rabbinic literature that created the basis for the perennial inquiry of the concept in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yair Lorberbaum reconstructs the idea of the creation of man in the image (...) of God attributed in the Midrash and the Talmud. He analyzes meanings attributed to tselem Elohim in early rabbinic thought, as expressed in Aggadah, and explores its application in the normative, legal, and ritual realms. (shrink)
To read literature is to read the way literature reads. René Girard’s immense body of work supports this thesis bountifully. Whether engaging the European novel, ancient Greek tragedy, Shakespeare’s plays, or Jewish and Christian scripture, Girard teaches us to read prophetically, not by offering a method he has developed, but by presenting the methodologies they have developed, the interpretative readings already available within such bodies of classical writing. In _The Prophetic Law_, literary scholar, theorist, and critic Sandor Goodhart (...) divides his essays on René Girard since 1983 into four groupings. In three, he addresses Girardian concerns with Biblical scripture, literature, and philosophy and religious studies issues. In a fourth section, he reproduces some of the polemical exchanges in which he has participated with others—including René Girard himself—as part of what could justly be deemed Jewish-Christian dialogue. The twelve texts that make up the heart of this captivating volume constitute the bulk of the author’s writings to date on Girard outside of his three previous books on Girardian topics. Taken together, they offer a comprehensive engagement with Girard’s sharpest and most original literary, anthropological, and scriptural insights. (shrink)
Figuring Animals is a collection of fifteen essays concerning the representation of animals in literature, the visual arts, philosophy, and cultural practice. At the turn of the new century, it is helpful to reconsider our inherited understandings of the species, some of which are still useful to us. It is also important to look ahead to new understandings and new dialogue, which may contribute to the survival of us all. The contributors to this volume participate in this dialogue in (...) a variety of ways--through personal experience, natural history, cultural studies, philosophical inquiry, art history, literary analysis, film studies, and theoretical imagining, and through a combination of these trains of thought. The essays expose weaknesses in western epistemological frames of reference that for centuries have limited our views and, thus, our experiences of animal being, including our own. (shrink)
These essays showcase the value of the narrative arts in investigating complex conflicts of value in moral and political life, and explore the philosophical problem of moral dilemmas as expressed in ancient drama, classic and contemporary ...
The book is about three things. First, how Ancient thinkers perceived humans as like or unlike other animals; second about the justification for taking a humane attitude towards natural things; and third about how moral claims count as true, and how they can be discovered or acquired. Was Aristotle was right to see continuity in the psychological functions of animal and human souls? The question cannot be settled without taking a moral stance. As we can either focus on continuity or (...) on discontinuities, how should natural science draw the boundaries? Moral agents act and react in a world that they see under a certain description, and there is no value free science that can settle what is the correct description. This book asks us to think about where moral justification could come from, and suggests that the supposed ‘moral status’ of the object cannot provide the answer. For the moral status of the object is a product of our own imagination, and once we see that, we also see that there remains the question where we ought to have the will to see it. Furthermore, since the perception of moral truth involves the development of imagination and will, the means to attain it will be better served by engagement with poetry and literature than with enquiries that seek to exclude the engagement of the imagination, or any appeal to the beauty of nature or the love of one's fellow creatures. (shrink)
This collection is a study of African literature framed by the central, and multi-faceted, idea of 'mother' - motherland, mothertongue, motherwit, motherhood, mothering - looking at the paradoxical location of (m)other as both central and marginal. Whilst the volume stands as a sustained feminist analysis, it engages feminist theory itself by showing how issues in feminism are, in African literature, recast in different and complex ways.
Complex Pleasure deals with questions of literary feeling in eight major German writers—Lessing, Kant, Hölderlin, Nietzsche, Musil, Kafka, Trakl, and Benjamin. On the basis of close readings of these authors Stanley Corngold makes vivid the following ideas: that where there is literature there is complex pleasure; that this pleasure is complex because it involves the impression of a disclosure; that this thought is foremost in the minds of a number of canonical writers; that important literary works in the German (...) tradition—fiction, poetry, critique—can be illuminated through their treatment of literary feeling; and, finally, that the conceptual terms for these forms of feeling continually vary. The types of feeling treated in Complex Pleasure include wit (the startling perception of likeness) and the disinterested pleasure of aesthetic judgment; Hölderlin’s “swift conceptual grasp,” in which “the tempo of the process of thought is stressed”; “artistic imagination,” mood, sadistic enjoyment, rapturous distraction, homonymic dissonance, and courage as a mode of literary experience. At the same time, through the deftness, range, and surprise of its execution, the book itself conveys complex pleasure. The reader will also find fascinating, hitherto untranslated material by Nietzsche (“On Moods”) and Kafka (important sections from his journals and from his unfinished novel The Boy Who Sank Out of Sight). (shrink)
This study is an important contribution to the intellectual history of Victorian England which examines the religio-aesthetic theories of some central writers of the time. Dr Fraser begins with a discussion of the aesthetic dimensions of Tractarian theology and then proceeds to the orthodox certainties of Hopkins' theory of inscape, Ruskin's and Arnold's moralistic criticism of literature and the visual arts, and Pater's and Wilde's faith in a religion of art. The author identifies significant cultural and historical conditions which (...) determined the interdependence of aesthetic and religious sensibility in the period. She argues that certain tensions in the thought of Wordsworth and Coleridge - tensions between poetry and religion, rebellion and reaction, individualism and authority - continued to manifest themselves throughout the Victorian age, and as society became increasingly democratic, religion in turn became increasingly personal and secular. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Acknowledgments; Introduction: scales of identification; 1. Democratic expansionism, gothic geographies, and Charles Brockden Brown; 2. Urban apartments, global cities: the enlargement of private space in Poe and James; 3. Cultural orphans: domesticity, missionaries, and China from Stowe to Sui Sin Far; 4. 'The Checkered Globe': cosmopolitan despair in the American Pacific; 5. Literature and regional production; Epilogue: scales of resistance.