Encountering the Medieval in Modern Jewish Thought


The term “medieval” performs a great deal more intellectual work in modern Jewish Thought than simply acting as a referent to a particular historical era. During the nineteenth century, often for Jews who were increasingly alienated from their own tradition, the “medieval” functioned primarily as a bearer of identity in a rapidly changing and secular world. Each chapter in Encountering the Medieval in Modern Jewish Thought addresses a different return to the medieval, ranging from the Enlightenment to the contemporary period, that clothed itself in the language of renewal and of retrieval. The volume engages the full complexity and range of meaning the term “medieval” carries for modern Jewish Thought.

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James A. Diamond, Ph.D. (1999), University of Toronto, is the Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Waterloo. His many publications include Maimonides and the Hermeneutics of Concealement (SUNY Press, 2002) and Converts, Heretics, and Lepers: Maimonidies and the Outsider (Notre Dame 2007).

Aaron W. Hughes, Ph.D. (2000), Indiana University, is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Rochester. His many publications include The Art of Dialogue in Jewish Philosophy (Indiana, 2007), The Invention of Jewish Identity (Indiana, 2010), and Abrahamic Religions: On the Uses and Abuses of History (Oxford, 2012).
Introduction: Encountering the Medieval in Modern Jewish Thought
James A. Diamond and Aaron W. Hughes
Part One: Modern Fascinations
Chapter One: “Medieval” and the Politics of Nostalgia: Ideology, Scholarship, and the Creation of the Rational Jew
Aaron W. Hughes
Chapter Two: On the Possibility of a Hidden Christian Will: Methodological Pitfalls in the Study of Medieval Jewish Philosophy
Sarah Pessin
Chapter Three : Lessing in Jerusalem: Modern Religion, Medieval Orientalism, and the Idea of Perfection
Zachary Braiterman
Part Two: Manipulations
Chapter Four: R. Abraham Isaac Kook and Maimonides: A Contemporary Mystic’s Embrace of Medieval Rationalism
James A. Diamond
Chapter Five: On Myth, History, and the Study of Hasidism: Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem
Claire E. Sufrin
Chapter Six: What S. Y. Agnon Taught Gershom Scholem about Jewish History
Kenneth Hart Green
Chapter Seven: Constructed and Denied: “The Talmud” from the Brisker Rav to the Mishneh Torah
Sergey Dolgopolski
Part Three: Specters of Strauss
Chapter Eight: Escaping the Scholastic Paradigm: The Dispute between Strauss and His Contemporaries about How to Approach Islamic and Jewish Medieval Philosophy
Joshua Parens
Chapter Nine: Justifying Philosophy and Restoring Revelation: Assessing Strauss’s Medieval Return
Randi L. Rashkover
Part Four: Venturing Beyond
Chapter Ten: Echo of the Otherwise: Ethics of Transcendence and the Lure of Theolatry
Elliot R. Wolfson
Due to its multidisciplinary nature, any scholar or student, graduate and undergraduate, interested in Jewish mysticism, Hebrew literature, Talmud, biblical exegesis, and medieval Jewish philosophy and poetry, and general medievalists would be interested in this volume.