Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian by David Nirenberg

By David Nirenberg

Via such a lot of Western eu background, Jews were a numerically tiny or fullyyt absent minority, yet throughout that historical past Europeans have still anxious very much approximately Judaism. Why may still that be so? This brief yet powerfully argued publication means that Christian anxieties approximately their very own transcendent beliefs made Judaism a major instrument for Christianity, as an apocalyptic religion—characterized via prizing soul over flesh, the non secular over the literal, the heavenly over the actual world—came to phrases with the inescapable significance of physique, language, and fabric issues during this international.

Nirenberg indicates how turning the Jew right into a personification of worldly over non secular issues, floor over internal that means, allowed cultures vulnerable towards transcendence to appreciate even their so much materialistic practices as non secular. concentrating on artwork, poetry, and politics—three actions in particular condemned as worldly in early Christian culture—he unearths how, during the last thousand years, those actions however multiplied the potential of their very own life inside Christian tradition simply because they have been used to symbolize Judaism. Nirenberg attracts on an astonishingly different choice of poets, painters, preachers, philosophers, and politicians to reconstruct the jobs performed by way of representations of Jewish “enemies” within the construction of Western paintings, tradition, and politics, from the traditional global to the current day.

This erudite and tightly argued survey of the ways that Christian cultures have created themselves by way of wondering Judaism will entice the broadest diversity of students of faith, paintings, literature, political conception, media thought, and the heritage of Western civilization extra generally.

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Additional info for Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics

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And] that of today both exhibit an identical artistry” (Laws 656E–657A). Plato’s praise of the Egyptians was aimed directly at what he considered the misguided aesthetic fashions of his own day, which celebrated artists for feats of naturalism and delighted in their invention of techniques of illusion. Yet through his criticism, Plato was also issuing painting a passport into the age of transcendence. In a world of ideas in which matter was increasingly stigmatized and the appearance of things increasingly deemed distant from their truth, painting was at risk of becoming the enemy of philosophy.

The Christians gesture in rapt attention toward the fountain of grace, in which some eucharistic wafers are floating. The Jews, their high priest blindfolded, lean away from the fountain and avert their faces, vainly consulting various scrolls of Hebrew script, the largest of which lies unfurled like a fallen standard on the floor. 33 In fact in the artistic bravura of those watery wafers floating at the very center of attention in the painting, we should see a manifesto about the power of painting in mediating grace.

2). A grotesque Jew in profile is juxtaposed to the painting he holds askew in his hands, already striding into a doorway whose darkness plays foil to the light color-field of wall from which the painting has been removed. The Jew here serves as an icon of the anti-iconic, the “pictoriality” of the entire scene emphasized by the accumulation of frames (bordering, city walls, and the frame of the icon itself ) the illuminator has deployed. In the following scenes the Jew acts accordingly, throwing the painting down a latrine and defecating upon it.

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