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Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh

Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh

(p.117) [6] Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh
Neighboring Faiths
David Nirenberg
University of Chicago Press

“Judaism” was not only a religion practiced by living adherents but also a basic epistemological and ontological category in the thought of non-Jews. This chapter focuses on the interaction between “Jewish” figures of thought and figures of flesh to understand the tensely productive relationship between the two. What kinds of cognitive work did “Judaism” and “Judaizing” do in Christian thought? How did this work depend upon or relate to “real” Judaism or living Jews? And how did the disappearance of so many Jews in the flesh affect the kinds of work that “Jewish” concepts of thought could do? We pose these questions in order to appreciate the immense power that concepts like “Judaism” and “Judaizing” had in the production of Christian communities and identities. By focusing on how these concepts were deployed by the many (mostly Christian) poets writing in Castilian and Catalan in the years after the mass conversions, this chapter explores how those poets used ideas about Judaism in order to create a critical discourse about poetry, and how that discourse transformed and was transformed by the possibilities of existence for living Jews and Christians.

Keywords:   Judaizing, Judaism, Conversos, medieval poetics, cancionero, representation, Christendom, political theology

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