Research seminars 2007/8


Thurs 11 October 2007 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A102
Dr. Esther Eshel, Bar-Ilan University 
'Intertextuality of Second Temple Texts Based on Genesis'

Scholars have given many a definition to the exegesis found in the Qumran scrolls. Geza Vermes, who distinguished between ‘Pure Exegesis’ and ‘Applied Exegesis’, while Moshe Bernstein suggested distinguishing between ‘Simple Sense Exegesis’ and ‘Applied Exegesis’, gave one. The ‘Simple Sense Exegesis’ tries to solve difficulties in language, grammar or context, which could confront any rationalist reader of the Biblical text. The ‘Applied Exegesis’ tries to answer non-biblical questions by searching for hidden general principles in the biblical text, which can be applied to new situations and problems. This exegesis is covering sectarian controversies as well as Halakhic matters, and can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, mainly in the Pesharim.
In my lecture I will discuss three categories of hermeneutical approaches to Genesis, each defined by a different motivation:

  1. Midrashic Paraphrase;
  2. Eschatological Commentary;
  3. Halakhic-Aetiological Exegesis.

The First category can be defined as ‘Simple Sense Exegesis’, since it deals with the text of Genesis directly without the ideological presuppositions evidenced in the second and third categories, which can be defined as ‘Applied Exegesis’.

Thurs 25 Oct 2007 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A102
Roger Tomes, Manchester
“Emma Lazarus and the Appeal to the Spirit of the Maccabees in Early Zionist Poetry”

This seminar has been rescheduled and will now take place on 13 March 2008.

Thurs 8 Nov 2007 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A102
Dan Garner, University of Manchester 
“Mysticism within Holocaust Theology”

My interest in Holocaust theology originally grew out of a long standing interest in the problem of evil.  Having examined Eliezer Berkovits's response in detail during my MA dissertation I continued to pursue Holocaust theology through into my current PhD studies, where I have been examining the use of Jewish mysticism by the Holocaust theologians.  By examining the responses of Emil Fackenheim and Melissa Raphael, this paper will argue that Jewish mysticism has both a presence and significance in Holocaust theology that has often been passed over, and that its presence in this field can be partly explained by a shift in the concerns of post-Holocaust Jewish theodicy.

Thurs 22 Nov 2007 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A102
Dr. Tamar Drukker, SOAS
“A Medieval Jewish version of King Arthur”

In 1279 an anonymous Jewish scholar from northern Italy produced a Hebrew translation of Arthurian prose romance. Only a fragment of the work survived in a single manuscript, comprising the writer’s introduction and the beginning of the tale he entitled ‘The book of the destruction of King Artus’ Round Table’. The tale seems to be an adaptation of a now-lost Italian source combining material from the prose tales of Merlin and the Mort Artu. 
This is the only example of Arthurian romance in Hebrew from the Middle Ages, and a unique example of a transmission of a popular tale from one cultural context to another. In a revealing introduction, the translator admits that he undertook the work for personal reasons, as a therapy against depression. But did he write this work only for himself? But if he were the sole intended reader, why does the introduction continues with a strong defence of romance?
In the talk we will discuss the context for this work and look closely at the translator's introduction.

Thurs 6 Dec from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A102
Prof. Janet Wolff, University of Manchester
“Visual Art and Jewish Identity”

Lady Ottoline Morrell said, on seeing Mark Gertler’s painting in 1914, ‘there was still the Jewish tradition, the Jewish mark, which gave them a fine, intense, almost archaic quality’.  In the early twentieth century, the assumption of something intrinsically ‘Jewish’ in work by artists who happened to be Jewish was quite common, though it is never very clear whether this has to do with subject-matter, style, or artist’s identity. The seminar will look at examples of this, and consider what is meant – and what is at stake – in this discourse.  It will also consider the post-war case of the work of R.B.Kitaj, and the complex issues involved in his accusations of anti-semitism amongst critics of his 1994 Tate retrospective.


Janet Wolff joined the University of Manchester in July 2006, as Professor of Performance, Screen and Visual Cultures, in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts.  Before coming to Manchester, she was Reader in the Sociology of Culture at the University of Leeds; Professor of Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester (New York); and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Arts at Columbia University.  Her publications include:  The Social Production of Art (1981), Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art (1983), Feminine Sentences (1990), Resident Alien(1995), AngloModern: Painting and Modernity in Britain and the United States (2003), and The Aesthetics of Uncertainty (forthcoming with Columbia University Press, Spring 2008).


Thurs 31 Jan 2008 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A112
Michael Hilton, London 
“The History of the Celebration of the Barmitzvah in Europe”

The seminar will explore the origins of bar mitzvah - both the synagogue ceremony and the party - using primary sources. Many of the sources can be interpreted in different ways, so there will be plenty of scope for discussion and debate.

Thurs 14 Feb 2008 
from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A112
Prof. Stephen Frosh, Birkbeck College, London 
"Psychoanalysis, Nazism and 'Jewish Science'"

This talk offers a partial examination of the troubled history of psychoanalysis in Germany during the Nazi period. Of particular interest is the impact on psychoanalysis of its ‘Jewish origins’ –something denigrated by the Nazis but reclaimed by more recent Jewish and other scholars. The rapid decline of the pre-Nazi psychoanalytic institutions under the sway of a policy of appeasement and collaboration is traced, with attention paid to the continuation of some forms of psychoanalytic practice within the ‘Göring Institute’. It is suggested that a feature of this history was the antisemitism evidenced by some non-Jewish psychoanalysts, which revealed an antagonism towards their own positioning as followers of the ‘Jewish science’.

Thurs 28 Feb 2008 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A112
Dr. Adam Silverstein, University of Oxford 
“Haman's Contribution to Muslim-Jewish Relations”

Haman's Contribution to Muslim-Jewish Relations: This seminar will deal with three relationships: 1) The relationship between the Quran and previous monotheistic scriptures and writings; 2) The relationship between late antique Judaism and early Islam; and 3) The relationship between Jews and Muslims in the middle ages. In exploring these relationships we will focus on 'Haman', a character who appears as a villain in both the Bible and the Quran. It will be argued that Haman was perhaps the most evil person who ever existed, or - more controversially - the most evil person who never existed.

Thurs 13 March 2008 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A112 
Roger Tomes, Manchester
“Emma Lazarus and the Appeal to the Spirit of the Maccabees in Early Zionist Poetry”

 Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), American Jewish poet, came to my attention because she appealed to the heroism of the Maccabees in her poem "The Banner of the Jew". In her early poetry she had made little use of Jewish themes, but was encouraged to translate the 11th century Spanish Jewish poets, and she both translated and wrote about Heine. Episodes of persecution in the Middle Ages found their way into her poetry. Reading George Eliot, the founding of the American Hebrew and the arrival of refugees from Russia convinced her that Jews needed to recover pride in their race and traditions and a new solidarity, and that they should look to the recolonisation of Palestine as the only way of protecting European Jews from persecution.

Thurs 10 April 2008 at 2.00 p.m., Room A7 
Sherman Lectures Feedback Session


Thurs 17 April 2008 
from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A112 
Dr. Marcel Stoetzler, University of Manchester 
"The Berlin Antisemitism Debate of 1879-81: From Trouser-selling Jews to Unbridled Multicultural Society"

I explore in this talk a series of newspaper and journal articles published in Germany in 1879-81 which are part of what later came to be called the Berliner Antisemitismusstreit (Berlin Antisemitism Dispute). In this dispute, anti-Jewish remarks by the historian and rightwing-liberal politician Heinrich von Treitschke were responded to by leading political and academic figures including Theodor Mommsen, Moritz Lazarus and Ludwig Bamberger. Treitschke’s texts have been seen as crucial to the development of modern antisemitism in Germany, but the debate which they provoked also points to some of the conceptual weaknesses of the liberal critique of antisemitism. My argument suggests that both Treitschke’s support for antisemitism and the ambivalence evident in the views of his opponents are rooted in the contradiction between inclusionary and exclusionary tendencies inherent in the nation-form: to the extent that liberal society constitutes itself in the form of a national state, it cannot but strive to guarantee, or produce, some degree of homogeneity or conformity of a national culture, which in turn cannot be separated from issues of morality and religion. I suggest that the historical discussion of the Berlin Antisemitism Dispute in its specific context of German nineteenth century liberalism, if interpreted in the more general framework of modern liberal society, can contribute to current debates on nationalism, patriotism, ethnic minorities, immigration and ‘multicultural society’.

Thurs 1 May 2008 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A112 
Dr. Tali Loewenthal, University College London 
"Is There a Post Modern Aspect to Hasidism?"

The hasidic movement, founded by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov in the mid-18th century, was distinguished by its thrust to see the sacred in everything.   As presented by the Baal Shem Tov’s disciple, Rabbi Jacob Joseph of Polonoye, this perception was particularly to be applied to fragmented Eastern European Jewish society.  The scholarly class saw themselves as ‘holy’ but could not relate to the ignorant masses. Hasidic teachings sought to reveal the holiness in everyone and thus draw together these disparate classes, with a vision of a deep underlying unity of the Jewish people.

During the 19th century the success of the Enlightenment and Reformist movements led to a strong traditionalist reaction which eventually led to the contemporary orthodox enclave.  The Hareidi Jew consciously seeks to live in a separate society with invisible walls protecting the holiness within and keeping at bay the profane world outside.  The Hasidim form an important section of this hareidi enclave, deliberately suppressing the earlier inclusivist hasidic ethos.

In the mid 20th century the Habad hasidic movement revived that ethos in a modern form, leading to its dominant contemporary mode of expression: outreach and inclusivism.  At the same time it remains part of the hareidi world.  The Habad process of deconstruction of borders and recognition of the other extends also to its view of non-Jewish society, while at the same time it seeks to preserve traditional halakhic definitions of Jewish identity.  This post-modern combination of opposites may suggest a possible resolution of the schism which emerged from the confrontation of traditionalism with modernity.

Thurs 15 May 2008 from 4.00-5.30 p.m., Room A114 
Prof. Dagmar Lorenz, University of Illinois at Chicago 
The Land of Hopes, Broken Dreams, and Desires. 
Israel in the Works of Contemporary Jewish Authors in Austria” 

In her presentation, Dagmar C. G. Lorenz examines the shifting significance of Israel as a touchstone of self-identification in the writings and films of Jewish intellectuals in 1980s Austria, notably Vienna. Born and raised in the postwar era, these young authors rebelled against the staunch pro-Israel views held by their parents, survivors and former exiles. Even though the latter chose to live in Austria, they did so with an eye on the Jewish State. They were emotionally identified with Israel and often had misgivings about raising their children in Austria. The journalist and filmmaker Ruth Beckermann summarized the situation as follows: “They considered Israel our real homeland and viewed America as the great power protecting the Jews.” Jews growing up in post-Shoah Austria led a double life. They never discussed their home life and overcompensated for their relatives’ Jewish speech or Eastern European accent. They themselves avoided Yiddish vocabulary even words that had become fashionable in the Viennese media. Talking about their family members’ memories of persecution and the Holocaust was out of the question. 
            In an attempt at integrating themselves into the dominant culture, many young Jews objected to their parents’ isolationism and the older generation’s unrealistic expectations of them. Some sought allies in leftist circles in Austria or Germany, impressed with the professed anti-fascism of the “Extra Parliamentary Opposition” and the critical stance of writers such as Handke, Berhard, Schwaiger, and Schutting. Yet, until the Waldheim-scandal in 1986 they hoped in vein for a broad-based re-examination of the past in Austria. Even open-minded Austrians and Germans eventually perpetuated often-heard claims of at least partial innocence casting doubt upon the integrity of Nazi victims. Jewish authors such as Schindel, Seelich, Beckermann, and Mitgutsch came to agree with Shoah survivor Jean Améry, who had identified a lingering anti-Semitism among the New Left under the guise of anti-Zionism. Despite their critical attitude toward the survivor generation, younger Jewish authors became keenly aware of their fundamental bond with Israel without embracing the uncritical approval of the Jewish State that they had criticized in their parents.