Research

Medieval Persian manuscript depicting Muhammad leading Abraham, Moses and Jesus in prayer. SourceThe Middle Ages. An Illustrated History by Barbara Hanawalt 

Medieval Persian manuscript depicting Muhammad leading Abraham, Moses and Jesus in prayer. SourceThe Middle Ages. An Illustrated History by Barbara Hanawalt 

Much of my work has focused on the ways in which Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures constitute themselves by interrelating with or thinking about each other. My first book, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, studied social interaction between the three groups within the context of Spain and France in order to understand the role of violence in shaping the possibilities for coexistence. In more recent projects I have taken a less social and more hermeneutical approach, exploring the work that "Judaism," "Christianity," and "Islam" do as figures in each other's thought about the nature of language and the world. One product of that approach, focused on art history, was (jointly with Herb Kessler) Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism (2011). In Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013), I attempted to apply the methodology to a very longue durée, studying the work done by pagan, Christian, Muslim, and secular thinking about Jews and Judaism in the history of ideas. Most recently, in Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism Medieval and Modern, I've tried to bring the social into conversation with the hermeneutic, in order to show how, in multireligious societies (my focus is on Spain), lived experiences of interreligious contact interact with conceptual categories and habits of thought, and how this interaction shapes how adherents of all three religions perceive themselves and each other.

My work on these three religious traditions ranges across literary, artistic, historiographic, and philosophical genres. But even more generally, my interest seems to be in the history of how the possibilities and limits of community and communication have been imagined. To that end I've engaged in some debates about how the possibility of overcoming those limits has been fantasized, such as my essays on the "Politics of Love and its Enemies" and on "Badiou's Number".  In order to explore these more general questions I am engaged in two long-term thematic projects: the first, a history of love's central place in a number of ancient, medieval, and modern idealizations of communication and exchange; and the second, a parallel study of poison as a representation of communication's dangers


Selected Articles 

Reviews

  • Review of Ruth HaCohen, "The Music Libel Against the Jews” (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011) The New Republic (Dec. 1, 2012), 47-51.
  • Review of Peter Gordon, Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davos (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), in The New Republic Feb. 3, 2011, 39-43.
  • Review of Sara Stroumsa, Maimonides in His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), London Review of Books 32.18 (Sep. 23, 2010), 31-32.
  • Review of Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso, 2009), Dissent (Spring, 2010), 103-9.
  • Review of Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate: On Integral Human development in Charity and Truth (Ignatius Press, 2009), The New Republic, Sep. 23, 2009, pp. 39-42.
  • Review of Yirmiyahu Yovel, The Other Within: The Marranos, Split Identity and Emerging Modernity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), in London Review of Books 31.14 (23 July, 2009), 16-18.
  • Review of Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism (New York: Doubleday, 2008), in The New Republic, March 18, 2009, pp. 42-47.
  • Review of Hans Jonas, Memoirs, ed. Christian Wiese (Brandeis: Brandeis University Press, 2008), and Christian Wiese, The Life and Thought of Hans Jonas: Jewish Dimensions (Brandeis: Brandeis University Press, 2008), in The New Republic, Nov. 5, 2008, pp. 39-43.
  • Review of Harvey Hames, Like Angels on Jacob’s Ladder: Abraham Abulafia, the Franciscans, and Joachimism (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007), Journal of Ecclesiastical History 60 (2009), 160-61.
  • Review Essay of Elka Klein, Jews, Christian Society, and Royal Power in Medieval Barcelona, in Jewish History 22 (June, 2008), pp. 245-253.
  • Review of Jonathan Elukin, Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 2007), in The New Republic, Feb. 13, 2008, pp. 46-50.
  • Review of Kenneth Stow, Jewish Dogs: An Image and its Interpreters(Stanford, 2006) and Israel Jacob Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late NAtiquity and the Middle Ages (Berkeley, 2006), The American Historical Review (April, 2007), 562-64.
  • Review of Chris Lowney, A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spain (Oxford University Press, NY, 2006), inCommon Knowledge 14 (2008), p. 153.
  • Review of Michael Gaddis, There is No Crime for Those who have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire (California, 2005), in The New Republic (December 2006).
  • Review of L.P. Harvey, Muslims in Spain: 1500-1614 (Chicago, 2005), in The American Historical Review 110 (2005).
  • Review of James Given, Inquisition and Medieval Society: Power, Discipline, and Resistance in Languedoc (Ithaca, 1997), Speculum 75 (2000), pp. 182-184.
  • Review of Robert I. Burns, S.J., Jews in the notarial culture. Latinate wills in Mediterranean Spain, 1250-1350 (Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1996) in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 50 (1999), pp. 572-73.
  • Review essay of Norman Roth, Jews, Visigoths and Muslims in Medieval Spain; and Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, in Journal of the American Oriental Society 117.4 (1997), pp. 753-757.