Posts by: mzank

Miriam Shenitzer’s putative life of Hannah Arendt. An introduction

The assembled images constitute an “archive” of sorts. As Jacques Derrida writes in Archive Fever, the arche of the archive alludes to both commencement and commandment.[1] The title of the visual archive, A putative life of Hannah Arendt, provides the directive on how to view the images. Like all historical evidence from which we attempt […]

May 14, 2018

Today is May 14, 2018. By the Gregorian calendar, this is the day when, seventy years ago, the provisional government of Israel headed by David Ben Gurion declared Israel’s independence. As was pointed out in a post I recently saw on FB, the question of territory of the newly independent Jewish state was not defined […]

Maimonides and his modern readers: Adventures in Jewish Philosophy

Note: The following summarizes my approach to Maimonides for a seminar I teach at Boston University, which concludes tomorrow, Monday April 30. The students were prompted to present on a significant text from our readings, or on their term paper. I decided to set myself a task as well, namely, to articulate the arc of […]

Moses as religious “kitsch”

A few days ago, we screened Die Slavenkönigin/Moon of Israel (Austria 1924), a film directed by Michael Courtace (aka Michael Curtiz) that was based on a novel by H. Rider Haggard that romanticized the biblical story of the exodus. You can watch the French version HERE. The screening served as a co-curricular event for a […]

On Paul

Jay Harris, in a review of Daniel Boyarin’s A radical Jew published in Commentary Magazine of June 1, 1995[1], cites Edward Gibbon to point out that the idea of Paul as a universalist transcending Jewish ethnic boundaries is, at best, only part of the story. That Paul’s exclusivism was more “ecclesiocentric” than “ethnocentric” primarily means […]

The New Testament

I teach the New Testament as part of an entry-level college course on the Bible. My overall approach is to teach the Bible as literature. I start with canon and canonization, then work my way through the parts of the canons, from Genesis to Daniel, canonical to apocryphal and deutero-canonical, Iron Age to Hellenistic, all […]

The Bible: a trigger warning

On May 17, 2014, Jennifer Medina published an article in the NYTimes that may forever change the way we approach the teaching of literature in the college classroom. It deprived us of our innocence. Under the heading, “Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm,” Medina points to a new form of self-censorship, called trigger […]

Mosaic Law: It’s not what you thought

There was a moment in today’s class that should not go unnoticed. The reading assignment this week in RN101 The Bible was Exodus 19-34, Leviticus 18-20, and a bunch of chapters from Deuteronomy for Friday. Yesterday we looked at the framing of the Sinai covenant, the quasi theatrical scene in Exodus 19, the deity’s physical […]

On Moses

We don’t know whether there was a historical Moses. As Jan Assmann wrote in his Moses the Egyptian, Pharaoh Amenophis IV “Akhenaten” was a figure of history but not of memory, while Moses is a figure of memory but perhaps not of history. And yet, Moses, as a figure of memory, has exerted considerable historical […]

The accidental religionist. An interview with Michael Zank

I meet Michael Zank at his office, on the fourth floor of the Elie Wiesel Center. The first thing I notice is that it is full of books. No surprise there. The second thing I notice is a wind catcher that has the Israeli flag on one side and the Palestinian flag on the other […]