Monday, May 22, 2006

Quote of the day: from Steven F. Kruger, The Spectral Jew

I can't seem to get these lines out of my head, so well do they convey Kruger's project in his new book. Here Kruger is speaking of the Dialogi of Peter Alfonsi, a conversation staged between a converted Jew and whats eems to be his former self. This Jew-that-was-Peter, named Moses, gets some of the best lines in the Dialogi, and does not in the end convert. Kruger writes:
The Dialogi thus never takes the final step of remerging Peter and Moses. Peter's former self never disappears, is never transformed; Moses remains represent throughout -- "stolid," making his arguments of women -- a reminder of Peter's Jewishness that, at least in this text, is never effaced. Despite Moses's final concessions, and despite what we know about the real-life conversion of Peter, the text continues to enact a perverse Jewish countermovement to the (proper) movement of conversion. Moses's transformation through the spirit remains wished for rather than completed; as the text draws to its close, the preconversion Jew still stands alongside his postconversion self. A residue of Jewish identity is thus ineffably inscribed within Peter's celebration of his own embracing of Christianity ... It is a certain queer residue that maintains the converted Jew as still (in terms of gender, [quasi] race, and sexuality as well as religion) different from those whom he has joined through conversion. (p.123)

Such "complex ambivalence," Kruger argues, accounts for the popularity of the Dialogi, which flourished at a time when "Islam in fact poses a significant threat to European Christian hegemony, and Judaism itself, no matter how diminished or historically 'humiliated,' persists as a presence within Europe" (124).

A longer review of this book will eventually follow ...

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