Talmud & Culture & Nature (Note from Conference at Bard College)

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Representing “philology,” Shai Secunda presided over a truly special day of talks at Bard College devoted to the theme of Talmud and its place in relation to the humanities. Excellent papers and presentations by junior and senior colleagues brought Talmud into relation with such themes as “the sound of religion,” ritual and urban performance art, process, ethnography, animals, reading, writing, mosaics, and visual studies.  “Imagination” was the connecting tissue. Faculty and undergraduate students (!) from religion, anthropology, and performing art weighed in after each presentation. Not to be missed, alas, I had to scoot and missed the concluding panel. “Nature” was central to Beth Berkowitz’s paper on animals and animal studies in Judaism and to Galit Hasan-Rokem’s reflections on Byzantine art and her own work as a poet. As a third conceptual term, what one could draw from the day was the “natural” fit between “Talmud” and “culture,” or perhaps the idea of the “culture” of “Talmud”  in “nature.” Its only now in retrospect that this occurs to me a related, deeply to Herman Cohen’s modelling of aesthetics as relating to the generation of “the nature of man” and “the man of nature” [sic]. At high speed, the drive down from the Catskills, over the Hudson twice, and then alongside the East River was dark green, exhilarating.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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