Elfriede Jelinek, taboo violation, and Zank

Just published in an Austrian internet portal dedicated to the work of Elfriede Jelinek, a comment responding to a video-text by the author Adolf Holl on the seven deadly sins. Thesis: without transgression no redemption; without taboo violation no living language. See HERE.

February 2014

Two classes up and running, one on Maimonides (RN420) and one on Jerusalem (RN220). Also: help me welcome Prof. Thomas Meyer, our special guest and visiting professor in Jewish studies and political philosophy this semester! You can find him almost every day at our new offices on the ground floor of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, at 147 Bay State Road.

Please drop in and say hello!

Next week: Genesis

The very lovely people from the BU Core Curriculum kindly invited me back to give an introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Whether it’s age or the fact that I’ve been doing this kind of thing (i.e., teaching “Bible”) for such a long time, it strikes me as an extremely humbling and puzzling charge. After all, many of my colleagues might raise their eyebrows that the Core should invite someone who isn’t really a “Bible scholar.” I am really not; at least not in the sense that reading and producing scholarship on the Bible is central to what I do. So what gives me the right to introduce a few hundred freshman to the Hebrew Bible? Perhaps it is the very fact that I am not a “Bible scholar” that particularly qualifies me; after all, in their first collegiate encounter with the Bible as a cultural artifact, students are less in need of exposure to Bible scholarship than to an answer of why, in this day and age, it is still worthwhile to crack the spine of this ancient book. I am sure a genuine Bible scholar might be able to do this as well and better. But a “religion” scholar and student of philosophy like myself who has been continuously preoccupied with this question for over thirty years should indeed be asked that question. That there are people curious to hear my answer is a blessing, mostly for myself.

Review of Velkley on Strauss and Heidegger

This just in, a review of a really very thoughtful and readable book on Strauss, Heidegger and “original forgetting” by Richard Velkley. See HERE.

Jerusalem, Summer II 2013

There are still a few open seats in CASRN220 Holy City this summer, so please sign up and bring your friends. This will be an opportunity to explore what we mean when we (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) call this city “holy,” why and how people are attached to it, and why it is such a contested place. It is also quite beautiful, there’s a complex ancient history to be explored, going back to the Bible and beyond, there are Crusaders, jihadists, and strange messiahs, emperors, caliphs, and builders, architectural history, power, propaganda, and pilgrimage, a rich tapestry of personages and problems, all in one tiny mountain city at the intersection of Africa, Asia, and Europe. For more background on this course, see HERE. (And don’t forget to sign up!)

Krzystof Michalski (1948-2013)

Boston University has (or in this case: had) quite a few hidden gems. This one was hidden in plain sight. Krzystof Michalski taught every other semester for the CAS Philosophy department, courses on Nietzsche (the subject of his last book), political philosophy, and other subjects. He was the kind of gem John Silber tended to recruit: mavericks, individualists, people with a point of view. Student learning meant to be exposed to such individuals, provide opportunity for intellectual engagement with people who were anything but routine academics, without sacrificing professionalism.

I met Kryzstof a few years ago during a strangely formal dinner at the home of Peter Berger. But he was an utterly informal individual. We sat on a PhD defense together, where he showed how one could be kind to a candidate and at the same time uncompromisingly incisive. I asked him to be a reader on another student’s dissertation prospectus and he agreed without fuss. He was a good colleague and a lovely man.

To gauge the loss we incur with his sudden passing, you can peruse the many obituaries that have appeared, some of which are listed on the website of the Institut für die Wissenschaft vom Menschen in Vienna that he founded and directed for many years. This was first and foremost a meeting point for intellectuals from both sides of the Iron Curtain to discuss the common heritage and common themes that prevailed beyond the ideological divisions then still prevailing. Many of our students were able to get a taste of the Institut’s atmosphere and the opportunities for intellectual exchange it afforded. We hope this relationship between Boston and Vienna will continue, even though an essential personal ingredient will be missing.

January 2013

A new semester begins today. I am offering two courses: CASRN339 The Modern Jew, a course in the Other Within series; and CASRN797 Philosophical and Theological Approaches to Religion, a required core course for the Division of Religious and Theological Studies.

In other news, I am looking forward to taking on the directorship of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies in July, for a three-year term.

A few highlights from last year:

Dana Hollander and her colleagues hosted me as the Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department of Religion, McMaster University, Hamilton/Ontario, October 22-25, 2012, where I lectured on the state of the field of philosophy of religion and gave a public talk on how Jerusalem obtained the status of an extraordinary holy city. The highlight was a guest lecture, in one of Dana’s seminars, on the Rosenzweig-Rosenstock correspondence of 1916, about which I had written my Examensarbeit in Heidelberg in 1986. (Thanks, Dana! It was fun.)

At the International Rosenzweig Society Congress, University of Toronto, Sept 3, 2012, I spoke on “Is Cohen the Enemy? Reflections Apropos Mark Lilla’s A Stillborn God.”

Last summer I had the pleasure of lecturing in Frankfurt and Halle, namely.

“Zwischen Religionswissenschaft und »Aufbau im Untergang« – Martin Buber vor und nach der unbefristeten Beurlaubung 1933” at International Conference on “Scholarship in Times of Political Radicalisation: Jews, Nationalists, and Others at the University of Frankfurt in the First Part of the 20th Century,” Goethe University Frankfurt, June 27, 2012.

“Wissenschaft als Widerstand: Martin Buber über Bildung und die Bibel” Seminar and guest lecture in series on Jüdisches Denken in Frankfurt: Das Freie Jüdische Lehrhaus 1920-1938, under the auspices of the Martin Buber Professorship for Jewish Philosophy of Religion at Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main (Germany), May 9, 2012. Also at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Seminar für Jüdische Studien, Halle (Germany), May 7, 2012.

Articles and book chapters that came out last year:

“Justice” in The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy: The Modern Era, edited by Martin Kavka, Zachary Braiterman, and David Novak (Cambridge, New York, etc.: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 704-738.

“Strauss, Schmitt, and Peterson: Comparative Contours of the ‘Theological Political Predicament’” in German-Jewish Thought Between Religion and Politics. FS Mendes Flohr, ed. Martina Urban and Christian Wiese (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2012), pp. 317-333.

“Jasper’s Achsenzeit Hypothesis: A Critical Reappraisal” 30th-Anniversary Festschrift for the Karl Jaspers Society of North America, Philosophical Faith and the Future of Humanity, ed. Alan Olson, Greg Walters, and Helmut Wautischer (Amsterdam: Springer Verlag, 2012), pp. 189-202.

(With Thomas Meyer), “More Early Writings by Leo Strauss from the Jüdische Wochenzeitung für Cassel, Hessen und Waldeck (1925–1928)” in Interpretation 39/11, Spring-Summer 2012, pp. 109-137.

(With Hartwig Wiedebach), “The Kant-Maimonides Constellation” JJTP 20.2 (2012), 135-145.

“The Heteronomy of Modern Jewish Philosophy” in JJTP 20.1 (2012), 99-134.

 

Much to report, and no time to report it

The navigation panel of this blog has reduplicated itself and I don’t know how to fix it. Can anyone help?

In the meantime, classes (CASRN101 The Bible; KHCRN101 Moses) are off to a very good start. Students are great!

Graduate student news: Theresa Cooney (DRTS, Cand PhD) is working on a dissertation on the Weimar jurist and constitutional theorist  Carl Schmitt’s early writings. Mireille Bishay (DRTS, Cand PhD) has begun her work on Augustine and Sartre.

Look out for events offered by the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies: http://www.bu.edu/judaicstudies, especially a series of workshops at the end of this month, in connection with alumni weekend and the university’s kick-off of its first major capital campaign. (See HERE)

Futures: I need to make some choices about classes to offer next year. Any requests?

Don’t miss the Christmas Extravaganza at the Acton Jazz Cafe, Dec 10!

Molly’s Holiday Extravaganza. A benefit concert for Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry. Saturday December 10, 7 – 8:30 p.m at the Acton Jazz Cafe.

Featuring Linda Roberts, voice; Molly Flannery, piano; Jon Simmons, trombone; Steve Elliott, sax, voice; Susan Thompson, voice; Bill McCormack, bass; Michael Zank, drums, voice; Will Schultz, voice.

This is a festive tradition where we entertain you with jazzy holiday tunes -a  bit of Vince Guaraldi, some carols, a reggae Hannukah number, even some Elvis – while you drink a cup o’ cheer, have a bite, and feel good that you’ve just donated to a very worthy local cause (see www.devenspantry.org/) that especially need your support at this time.

Donations of canned foods, sundries, winter clothing and/or $10  (or more!) gratefully accepted.

A raffle too!

Please make reservations by emailing gwenn@actonjazzcafe.com with “Extravaganza Reservations” as your subject.   Or call 978-263-6161.

This event often sells out so please put your reservation in soon to be assured of a seat!  thanks so much!

Acting Director, EWCJS (2011-12)

Update November 2011: I’ve had the pleasure of serving as the Acting Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies since July. There’s a lot to report, but there’s even more to do, so I am referring you to the EWCJS website for news (http://www.bu.edu/judaicstudies/). Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions about classes or events, or if you’re interested in supporting the Center.