Monday, July 13, 2009

Leeds Live Blog II: "Between Christian and Jew"

Figure 1. Medieval Lincoln

by EILEEN JOY

The way I see it, if Irina Dumitrescu wants something, you do it for her. Absolutely. Every. Time. In Jeffrey's previous post, "Leeds Live Blog I," where Jeffrey detailed some of his pre-Leeds Congress plenary jitters, Irina asked, "Can I convince anyone to facebook/tweet-blog the talk? Because that would be amazing." Oh yeah, Irina, we can do that for sure. Below is my Twitter feed from the University of Leeds, Weetwood Hall, at approximately 9:45 a.m. onwards, when Jeffrey stepped up to the podium to deliver his talk, "Between Christian and Jew: Orthodoxy, Violence, and Living Together in Medieval England":

And now: here comes to the podium our beloved Jeffrey Cohen. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

We begin with Gerald of Wales and his Jewish miracle tales. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

Especially Jewish doubting stories. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

The story about a Jew who mocks St Frideswide's miracles in a parody of orthodoxy, then hangs himself. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

Stories such as these, regardless of their rhetorical intentions, challenged Christian self-assurance. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

For Gerald, Jew = mocking unbeliever. A Christian fantasy. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

"The Jew is an intrusion into modernity of a superceded past" (direct quote). [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

But Christians and Jews also lived side by side in large cities and were domestic intimates. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific; a later aside: Jeffrey also reminded us, though, that for the Jews, the fact that Christians could always come in and take away, and even destroy their home, was always an omnipresent threat]

Can we then find alternative narratives that would free Jews from their "typological amber"? [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

Jeffrey now turns to Matthew Paris's account of the boy-martyr Hugh of Lincoln. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific]

This is the prototypical mocking/heretical Jew story. [about 6 hours ago from Twitterrific; a later aside: which of course always ends in the confession/shaming of the Jew who will die a horrible, self-inflicted or other kind of death]

The "guilty" Jew confesses to a Christian fantasy. But this reading is a typical lachrymose historicist narrative that connects Lincoln ... [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

... to the Holocaust. What else is there? Now we turn to Mandeville. [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

Mandeville is such a cosmopolitan he finds a way to praise children-eating islanders. Buy as to the Jews... [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

...here we have the story of the Jews trapped/hidden in the mountain who will come out in the end-days to try to kill Christians. [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific; a later aside: the Caucasus Mountains]

Mandeville's urbane generosity toward foreign peoples seems to disappear in his narrative on the Jews in the mountain. But is there another way... [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

...to read this episode via Gil Harris's idea of polychronicity? [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

Jeffrey wants to think of near-dwelling and neighbor-ness in a context of thick temporalities. [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

Amazingly, Jeffrey finds brief glances of domestic nearness betwen Christians and Jews in Gerald and Matthew. [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific; a later aside: these are only glimpses and even less than brief moments, or perhaps "views," as if seen through a narrow window, but their existence is telling as regards the "other" lives Christians and Jews were experiencing *beside* each other]

What happens between Christian and Jew in these small, domestic interspaces (2 boys playing together) when orthodox differences break down? [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

How do these lived, domestic spaces help to make the strange familiar and open onto the possibility of amity? [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

Urban adjacency may have led to neighborliness. [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

But there was also Jewish ire against the Christian neighbor, even fantasies of an end-apocalypse in which all Christians would be destroyed. [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific; a later aside: the ground-breaking work of the Jewish scholar Israel Jacob Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb, is instructive on this much-neglected point in Jewish-Christian history]

In this scenario, the anti-Christ marks a place of betweeness/sameness in which we can see a complex, intimate tension between Christian and Jew. [about 5 hours ago from Twitterrific]

I did not get to tweet Jeffrey's conclusion, mainly because I was really trying to hear everything at that point without looking down too much at my iPhone, but in short, it was something like, "perhaps these fantasies, however violent they may have been, in both the Christian and Jewish imaginary, may have provided some kind of release of tension. In this scenario, the future holds out a space of a different relationality-to-come."

It was terrific fun to do this, and if ITM readers wants more of it, I'll do my best to try and accommodate. Cheers, Eileen in Leeds

7 comments:

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Thank you, Eileen, for posting this. Since I was having an out of body experience the whole time, reading your tweets now seems to me just like being there.

irina said...

Eileen, Eileen, Eileen. Why do more people not think like you?

The tweet was epic. Simply epic.

The funny thing is, if I may be allowed to get all reflective up in here, is that the live-tweet actually approximates, in a way, not so much the experience of listening to a talk as the memory of it -- we remember shocking images, main points (sometimes), and lovely turns of phrase (like "typological amber," which I love).

Jonathan Hsy said...

OMG this twitterfeed is the coolest thing. Was there Q&A afterwards too? Hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Leeds.

anna klosowska said...

yes to what Irina and Jonathan say on how cool it is to twitterfeed
we all wanted to be there and we all, in a way, were.
THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
and please give us more of this

Sarah Rees Jones said...

As somebody in Leeds - but sitting at the back of the video feed - this is hugely helpful - and can I say two things?

1) it was great, Jeffrey was great, (and greatly helped by having read bits on the blog beforehand so helping fill in all the bits i couldn't quite hear on the oddly 'atmospheric' broadcast).

2) John Arnold really was great too. I would not want to put a pin between you.

Thank you both!

Izgad said...

Here are my notes. http://izgad.blogspot.com/2009/07/international-medieval-congress-key.html

Great lecture!

Magistra said...

Yet another write-up here.