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Deviant Politics and Jewish Love

Deviant Politics and Jewish Love

Alfonso VIII and the Jewess of Toledo

(p.55) [3] Deviant Politics and Jewish Love
Neighboring Faiths
David Nirenberg
University of Chicago Press

Claims about love were the terms in which conflict, both political and hermeneutic, were expressed and negotiated in the Christian Middle Ages, with lust aligned with error, and proper love aligned with just politics and correct interpretation. Because of this co-dependence between truth and love in Christian theology, improper “love” of Jews was a frequent accusation against Christian princes in medieval Christendom, animating a discourse critical of the growing claims of sovereign power. The story of how King Alfonso VIII fell in love with a Jewess of Toledo is a product of this co-dependence: how to discriminate between political and textual practices that are the products of legitimate love between sovereigns and subjects, and those that are not? This is the basic constitutional question posed by the Jewess of Toledo. Her romance teaches us a great deal, not only about conflicts over new forms of governance (such as royal favorites, ministers, taxation, and bureaucracies) in medieval political orders, but also about the roles played by figures of Judaism (and of women) in enacting and representing these conflicts within Christian political theology.

Keywords:   political theology, Alfonso VIII, Castile, love, medieval state formation, queenship, interfaith sexual relations, miscegenation, rebellion, privado

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