February 16, 2018
Amos Morris-Reich, director of the Bucerius Institute for Research of German History and Society at the University of Haifa, presents, “Photography and Ideologies of Vision” from noon-1:30 p.m. Location TBD.
March 16, 2018
Marc Caplan presents, Double or Nothing: The Erasure of Jewish Speech and Language in Georges Perec’s “W ou le souvenir de’enfrance.” Although an extensive scholarly literature exists on the “errors” in transcription of the Hebrew alphabet through which the French author Georges Perec (1936-1982) evokes his childhood in the narrative W, or the Memory of Childhood (1975), little effort has been made to conceptualize the specificity of the Yiddish language in determining these episodes in the memoir and the displacement of language that characterizes the work as a whole. This lecture will trace the clues toward an absent Yiddish in Perec’s narrative, as a means of underscoring the layers of resonating unity in the divided narrative strands of his memoir (and thus his memory). In attempting to recreate his discovery of language and literacy, at age three, Perec describes his ability to trace a letter that he recalls as “gammeth, or gammel” (that is, gimmel), but which in his reconstruction more closely resembles the letter peh. This reconstruction inscribes Perec’s initials, “G.P.,” into the texture of his memory, yet in a language so misconstrued that the author seems unable to identify the self so inscribed. That the language misconstrued is Yiddish resonates with the work as a whole: entitled W, in French it is meant to be recognized as a double-v(ie), that is a double life, in that it is constructed via two independent stories—one a nightmarish fantasy of a sports colony turned to a concentration camp, the other a reminiscence of the author’s childhood in Occupied France—that coincide with the narrator’s discovery of his authorial mission in the erasure of memory during the Holocaust. Nonetheless, the letter W is pronounced in French not as double-vie, but as double-vey, which establishes a bilingual wordplay with the Yiddish term vey (woe), as in the ubiquitous idiom oy vey—itself a doubling of Hebraic and Germanic terms for misfortune. The Latin letter with which the author titles his memoir simultaneously signifies and effaces the Yiddish language of his childhood, and which stands as the souvenir of all that he had lost in the subsequent catastrophe. The event will be held noon-1:30 p.m. in the Smokler Center for Jewish Life, 3109 N. Charles Street.
April 9-11, 2018
The 13th Lavy Colloquium presents, “Herem: The Sources, Practice, and Representation of Ex-Communications and Bans in Rabbinic Culture.” The social institution of herem was probably the most severe disciplinary measure Jewish communities throughout the centuries could impose on their members. As such, herem seems to be a highly important topic in the study of Jewish social, political, and religious history. Nevertheless, as of today, this institution seems more mystifying (as is witnessed by the various legends surrounding Spinoza’s “excommunication”) than a proper object of study. In our conference (whose proceedings we intend to publish), we would like to provide a panoramic overview of the theory and practices of herem from Mishnaic times through late modernity. To that end, we have assembled a team of leading scholars specializing in various sub-fields and periods within Jewish Studies, hoping to provide a thorough account of this important yet insufficiently examined topic. The conference will take place at Johns Hopkins University.
April 20, 2018
Elizabeth Imber, a graduate student in the Department of History, presents, “Will the Sun Ever Set on the British Empire? Interwar Zionism, All Things British and the Future of the Mandate Palestine,” from noon -1:30 p.m. in the Smokler Center, 3109 N. Charles Street.
April 30, 2018
The Isaac and Leah M. Potts Memorial Lecture presents, “The Problem of Many Gods in Alghazali, Averroes, Maimonides, Crescas and Sforno,” by Warren Zev Harvey, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The event will be held at 5 p.m. Location TBD.
April 30-May 4, 2018
Master Class on the Philosophy of Hasdai Crescas
In this class we shall read together texts from The Light of the Lord (Hebrew: Or Adonai), the anti-Aristotelian book by the famed Catalan Jewish philosopher, Rabbi Hasdai Crescas (c. 1340-1410/11). The Light was completed in Saragossa in 1410 and first printed in Ferrara in 1555.
Topics discussed will include space, time, the vacuum, infinity, many worlds, determinism and choice, and the knowledge and love of God. Attention will be given to Crescas’ relation to earlier medieval philosophers, such as Maimonides, Averroes, and Gersonides, and to later medieval and modern philosophers, including Spinoza. Crescas’ theories will also be analyzed with regard to other representatives of the revolutionary “new physics” in 14th-century Europe, particularly Nicole Oresme.
Monday, April 30: Introduction & The Denial of Commandments on Beliefs
Tuesday, May 1: Infinite Space and Time
Wednesday, May 2: Proofs of God (including Spinoza’s Discussion of Crescas’ short proof)
Thursday, May 3: Choice and Determinism
Friday, May 4: Love of God