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Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition
Synopses & Reviews
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are usually treated as autonomous religions, but in fact across the long course of their histories the three religions have developed in interaction with one another. In Neighboring Faiths, David Nirenberg examines how Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived with and thought about each other during the Middle Ages and what the medieval past can tell us about how they do so today.
There have been countless scripture-based studies of the three religions of the book,” but Nirenberg goes beyond those to pay close attention to how the three religious neighbors loved, tolerated, massacred, and expelled each other—all in the name of God—in periods and places both long ago and far away. Nirenberg argues that the three religions need to be studied in terms of how each affected the development of the others over time, their proximity of religious and philosophical thought as well as their overlapping geographies, and how the three neighbors” define—and continue to define—themselves and their place in terms of one another. From dangerous attractions leading to interfaith marriage; to interreligious conflicts leading to segregation, violence, and sometimes extermination; to strategies for bridging the interfaith gap through language, vocabulary, and poetry, Nirenberg aims to understand the intertwined past of the three faiths as a way for their heirs to produce the future—together.
"Based on a decade of exhaustive research, this book explores 'anti-Judaism' as an intellectual current (as opposed to its overtly political and social analogue, anti-Semitism) from ancient Egypt through to the Frankfurt School and just after the Holocaust. Nirenberg (Communities of Violence), professor of medieval history and social thought at the University of Chicago, contends that anti-Judaism is 'one of the basic tools with which was constructed,' yet he stresses that this device depended less on an acquaintance with real Jews, and more on 'figural Jews,' ciphers for all that a particular thinker opposed. Martin Luther, for example, not only criticized Jews for clinging to the 'killing letter' of the law, he also hurled accusations against the Roman Catholic Church for its 'Jewish' tendencies; Luther's adversaries, meanwhile, accused the Jews of using him to undermine the Church. Nirenberg, whose scholarship is concerned primarily with the historical and cultural intersections of the Abrahamic religions, is particularly strong in his treatment of the Enlightenment, illustrating how Christian anti-Jewish memes were adopted by secular, rationalist thinkers. Though Nirenberg gives short shrift to American intellectualism, and his examination terminates after the Holocaust, this is nevertheless a magisterial work of intellectual history. Agent: Georges Borchardt." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A powerful history that shows anti-Judaism to be a central way of thinking in the Western tradition.
This book represents the culmination of David Nirenbergs ongoing project; namely, how Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived with and thought about each other in the Middle Ages, and what the medieval past can tell us about how they do so today. There have been scripture based studies of the three religions of the book” that claim descent from Abraham, but Nirenberg goes beyond those to pay close attention to how the three religious neighbors loved, tolerated, massacred, and expelled each other—all in the name of God—in periods and places both long ago and far away. Whether Christian Crusaders and settlers in Islamic-ruled lands, or Jewish-Muslim relations in Christian-controlled Iberia, for Nirenberg, the three religions need to be studied in terms of how each affected the development of the other over time, their proximity of religious and philosophical thought as well as their overlapping geographies, and how the three neighbors” define (and continue to define) themselves and their place in the here-and-now—and the here-after—in terms of one another. Arguing against exemplary histories, static models of tolerance versus prosecution, or so-called Golden Ages and Black Legends, Nirenberg offers here instead a story that is more dynamic and interdependent, one where Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities have re-imagined themselves, not only as abstractions of categories in each others theologies and ideologies, but by living with each other every day as neighbors jostling each other on the street. From dangerous attractions leading to interfaith marriage, to interreligious conflicts leading to segregation, violence, and sometimes extermination, to strategies of bridging the interfaith gap through language, vocabulary, and poetry—Nirenberg aims to understand the intertwined past of the three faiths as a way for their heirs to coproduce the future.
As the Holocaust passes out of living memory, future generations will no longer come face-to-face with Holocaust survivors. But the lessons of that terrible period in history are too important to let slip past. How Was It Possible?, edited and introduced by Peter Hayes, provides teachers and students with a comprehensive resource about the Nazi persecution of Jews. Deliberately resisting the reflexive urge to dismiss the topic as too horrible to be understood intellectually or emotionally, the anthology sets out to provide answers to questions that may otherwise defy comprehension.
This anthology is organized around key issues of the Holocaust, from the historical context for antisemitism to the impediments to escaping Nazi Germany, from the logistics of the death camps and the carrying out of genocide to the subsequent struggles of the displaced survivors in the aftermath.
Prepared in cooperation with the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, this anthology includes contributions from such luminaries as Jean Ancel, Saul Friedlander, Tony Judt, Alan Kraut, Primo Levi, Robert Proctor, Richard Rhodes, Timothy Snyder, and Susan Zuccotti. Taken together, the selections of this anthology make the ineffable fathomable and demystify the barbarism underlying the tragedy, inviting readers to learn precisely how the Holocaust was, in fact, possible.
This incisive history upends the complacency that confines anti-Judaism to the ideological extremes in the Western tradition. With deep learning and elegance, David Nirenberg shows how foundational anti-Judaism is to the history of the West. Questions of how we are Jewish and, more critically, how and why we are not have been churning within the Western imagination throughout its history. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans; Christians and Muslims of every period; even the secularists of modernity have used Judaism in constructing their visions of the world. The thrust of this tradition construes Judaism as an opposition, a danger often from within, to be criticized, attacked, and eliminated. The intersections of these ideas with the world of power--the Roman destruction of the Second Temple, the Spanish Inquisition, the German Holocaust--are well known. The ways of thought underlying these tragedies can be found at the very foundation of Western history.
About the Author
David Nirenberg is the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His work focuses on the interactions of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures in history.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Neighboring Faiths
1 Christendom and Islam
2 Love between Muslim and Jew
3 Deviant Politics and Jewish Love: Alfonso VIII and the Jewess of Toledo
4 Massacre or Miracle? Valencia, 1391
5 Conversion, Sex, and Segregation
6 Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh
7 Mass Conversion and Genealogical Mentalities
8 Was There Race before Modernity? The Example of Jewish” Blood in Late Medieval Spain
9 Islam and the West: Two Dialectical Fantasies
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