By David Nirenberg
Via so much of Western ecu historical past, Jews were a numerically tiny or fullyyt absent minority, yet throughout that heritage Europeans have still fearful greatly approximately Judaism. Why may still that be so? This brief yet powerfully argued booklet means that Christian anxieties approximately their very own transcendent beliefs made Judaism an immense software for Christianity, as an apocalyptic religion—characterized by means of prizing soul over flesh, the non secular over the literal, the heavenly over the actual world—came to phrases with the inescapable value of physique, language, and fabric issues during this global.
Nirenberg indicates how turning the Jew right into a personification of worldly over religious issues, floor over internal which means, allowed cultures prone towards transcendence to appreciate even their so much materialistic practices as non secular. targeting artwork, poetry, and politics—three actions particularly condemned as worldly in early Christian culture—he finds how, during the last thousand years, those actions however increased the potential of their very own lifestyles inside of Christian tradition simply because they have been used to symbolize Judaism. Nirenberg attracts on an astonishingly assorted number of poets, painters, preachers, philosophers, and politicians to reconstruct the jobs performed by way of representations of Jewish “enemies” within the construction of Western artwork, 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 puzzling over Judaism will entice the broadest diversity of students of faith, artwork, literature, political concept, media concept, and the historical past of Western civilization extra generally.
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Extra info for Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics
28 In the late thirteenth century the Castilian king Alfonso X “the Wise” actively supervised (one might even say authored) a set of illuminated manuscripts of vernacular poetry and music praising the Virgin Mary and telling of her miracles. These manuscripts, known collectively as the “Songs of Holy Mary” (Cantigas de Santa María), make novel claims for the power of the painter, poet, and prince to motivate divine attention and mobilize miracle. In fact many of the miracles collected in the manuscripts are themselves meant as manifestations of the Virgin’s love for her troubadours, her singers and painters, for King Alfonso as impresario of the entire project, and even (as we shall see in chapter 3) for the physical manuscripts of the Cantigas themselves.
But Augustine also recognized that every embodied human being, even the most Christian, was at risk of this miserable slavery. As he put it in Book 10 of the Confessions, “The eyes delight in fair and varied forms, and bright and pleasing colors. . There is no rest from them given me. . . ” Augustine did not believe anyone, however prayerful or pious, was capable of breaking this fatal attraction. ’ You pluck them out continually, for they are easily ensnared. 34). . with the inclination of my mind.
According to him, the prohibition in the Old 26 Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies Testament had been addressed only to the childlike Jews, who were prone to idol worship: It was, therefore, for the Jews, on account of their sliding into idolatry, that these things were ordained by law. 10 Christians could therefore utilize images without danger, since they were mature enough to look to the spirit and not the flesh. It is precisely because Christian questions about that relationship were so multiple, and so important to Christian understanding of the relationship between God and the material world, that Jews and Judaism came to stand at the center of Christian thinking about the dangers of aesthetics and the possibilities for art.
Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics by David Nirenberg
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