Monday, May 04, 2009

Jews, Jews and More Medieval Jews

by J J Cohen

Well there is this:
Though possible for 'Jew' to function as a synonym for 'heretic', Jews were usually seen as temporally other to Christians. Yet Ashkenazic Jewish communities cohabitated with urban Christians, becoming a community intimately involved in deliberation over belief. This paper examines what happens in the lived spaces between Christians and Jews, where there existed a potential for amity as well as complexity within hostility. The Jews of medieval England are so troubling to Christian orthodoxy, I will argue, for their very modernity.
And then there is this:
Much scholarship on the Jews of York tends, like medieval writings on Jews in general, to assume that they inhabited a culturally separate (and therefore religiously pure) space, as well as a kind of living past. Such temporal separation and cultural segregation seems unlikely, given what we can glimpse of Christian-Jewish contiguity, even in texts known for their antisemitism. Spurred by contemporary Jewish youth movements that argue that the Jewish future cannot be predetermined from its revered past, and taking into account recent scholarship on medieval Jewish hybridity, this essay argues that the determinative power of the massacre in 1190 can obscure a more complicated narrative of convivencia and coinhabitation.
Two portions of the same project, it will be a minor miracle if I can stop utilizing labor avoidance mechanisms long enough to get some work done on them.


Eileen Joy said...

Jeffrey: you might be interested to know that Hannah Johnson's comments at BABEL's first roundtable on the place of ethics in medieval scholarship are directly related to your project here.

Karl Steel said...

Have you yet read the Chazen article in most recent Speculum on reciprocal millennial thinking among Jewish martyr/suicides and genocidal crusaders in Rhine valley during First Crusade? I'm not totally convinced of the reciprocality aspect of Chazen's argument [I think he makes a much stronger argument for rationales for genocide than for rationales for self-martyrdom], but nonetheless, it's probably of interest for your Leeds argument.

Also, and god help me, I can't find this in my notes, but doesn't Burger in Ch's Queer Nation talk about doing 'presentist' readings of Chaucer that try to forget the future that England would become in order to return to his present its possibility and heterogeneity, in other words, to return the present to its (late 14th-century) present? GB's points here (wherever they are!) are also useful for your 'York in 1189' project.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Eileen, Hannah is in fact giving a paper in the same session of the York conference; she and I are frequent correspondents. Her work is absolutely terrific.

Karl, I have seen the piece and am really amazed that Israel Yuval's scholarship on Christian-Jewish apocalyptic interrelations doesn't figure in it. Their conclusions are similar, byt Yuval's are more radical. If I remember correctly, he also tends to see the Mainz accounts as more historically removed, a "history" that is really about a later age's eschatology.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Oh, and thanks for the memory jog on Burger -- will check as soon as I have the chance.

dan remein said...

As always, I think Hannah should win and 'awesome' prize. Looking forward very much to this Babel panel, and whatever else is coming out of this project of Jeffrey's. Maybe Jeffrey will have some neat questions for her that we can all benefit from (?).