Workshop | Visual and Material in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Culture


Prof. Elisheva Baumgarten, Drs. Neta Bodner and Tzafrir Barzilay

The workshop "Visual and Material in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Culture" was organized by the Institute for Jewish Studies and the Cluster of Excellence "Religion and Politics" of the University of Münster, in cooperation with the ERC "Beyond the Elite" Project. The workshop was held at the University of Münster on 17-20 July, 2017.

The workshop brought together scholars from various fields of Jewish studies to discuss issues of the visual, visualization, material culture and the mediation of sight from a variety of view points: legal texts and responsa, philosophy, science, mysticism, exegesis, poetics, and others. They presented insights into questions of idolatry, iconoclasm, beauty, local culture, of possible didactic functions of images and objects, of their reception and rejection.

Members of "Beyond the Elite" project presented three of the lectures:

Elisheva Baumgarten's talk, "Marked Identity: Clothes and Creating Religious Belonging", discussed the importance of understanding what clothes Jews wore and their visibility as both an internal Jewish code and an external message to Christian neighbors. Her talk focused on two issues: how Jews marked their identity in subtle ways seen only by those who were familiar with these internal codes and what clothes Jews wore as part of internal events and rituals and the meanings they imparted. All in all the talk sought to outline the importance of investigating these matters as part of creating a better understanding of medieval every day life.

Neta Bodner's talk "Design and Material of Medieval Mikvaot in Ashkenaz", discussed the architecture on monumental Mikvaot in medieval Germany, and their cultural and ritual meaning.

Tzafrir Barzilay's talk, "How to Poison a Well: Water and Danger in 14th Century Jewish sources", discussed the material aspects of well-poisoning accusations. It showed that both Jews and Christians tended to present water poisoning in symbolic terms, rather than in sharp medical or empirical language.  However, while Christian sources contain some evidance of this new empirical terminology starting at the mid- 14th century, Jewish sources do so only at the Early Modern Period.

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Mon, 17/07/2017 (All day) to Thu, 20/07/2017 (All day)


University of Münster Germany