David Nirenberg will be coming to speak at the Seminar in Cultural History on Wednesday, November 3, 2010, at 12 noon on “Art’s Struggle with Judaism: Medieval and Early Modern.”

David Nirenberg is the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought in Department of History, and member of the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, at the University of Chicago where he has taught since 2006. He received his A.B. from Yale University and M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. He has taught at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Rice University, Houston, and has been a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Dr. Nirenberg has the recipient of a number of fellowships and awards, including the John Nicholas Brown Prize from the Medieval Academy of America (2000), the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award (2003) and fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, in California (2000-2001), Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, in Germany (2004-5) and from the Center for Advanced Study at the Ludwig Maximilian Universität, Munich, to be taken in 2011.

Dr. Nirenberg is the author of Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press), which has also been published in French and Spanish, and The Figure of the Jew: from Ancient Egypt to the Present (forthcoming, W.W. Norton). He is the joint editor of The Body of Christ in the Art of Europe and New Spain, 1150-1800, with James Clifton and Linda Neagley (1997) and two forthcoming volumes, Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism (with Herbert Kessler) and Race and Blood in Spain and Colonial Latin America (with Maria Elena Martinez and Max Hering Torres). Dr. Nirenberg is the author of numerous essays and articles, such as, “Double Game: Maimonides in his World,” in the London Review of Books (September, 2010); “L’Indécision Souverain: Génocide et Justice en Valencia, 1391,” in Mélanges Claude Gauvard (2010); and “Was there Race before Modernity? The Example of ‘Jewish’ Blood in Late Medieval Spain,” in The Origins of Racism in the West (2009).

Dr. Nirenberg’s talk is entitled “Art’s Struggle with Judaism: Medieval and Early Modern.” Should Christians make art, or does attention to the beautiful works of human hands constitute a misplaced emphasis on the things of this world or, worse, a prohibited form of idolatry? And if art is allowed, upon what styles, motifs, and symbols should it draw? From the beginnings of Christianity, Christian artists, theologians, and philosophers have answered these and other questions about art by thinking about and representing Judaism. This talk will introduce the long history—with special emphasis on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance—of the ways in which Christian art deployed cohorts of “Jews” in order to conquer, defend, and explore its own territory.