Friday, October 30, 2009

The Literary and Linguistic Context of the Zohar

Conference on

Late Aramaic: The Literary and Linguistic Context of the Zohar

Monday, November 9th to Wednesday November 11, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1

This conference is part of a a project combining two areas of expertise which have never been put together before: Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah on the one hand, and Semitic languages, in particular Aramaic, on the other hand. The project sets out to examine the Aramaic language in which the bulk of the Zohar—Judaism"s most important Kabbalistic work—was originally written, either—as tradition has it—in 2nd century Palestine, or—as has been held by most scholars under the impact of pioneering work by the late Gershom Scholem—in late 13th century Spain. Scholem had argued that the Aramaic of the Zohar was an "artificial idom" made up from an indiscriminate mixture of Aramaic dialects found in earlier sources, such as the two Talmuds and the Aramaic translations of the Bible. This late medieval Aramaic concoction was produced, according to Scholem, by one man—the 13th century Castillian kabbalist, Moses de Leon, who authored the Zohar anonymously, and who wished to invest his work with the air and authority of antiquity by adopting the vernacular language of the 2nd century Palestinian Sages.

See the full program.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

How dangerous is the Ir-rational?


"How dangerous is the Ir-rational?"

ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry

Friday, 30 October 2009, 2 – 9 pm

Doomed to a constant oscillation between the realms of the Unknown and the illusion of meaning, we advance regressing. Echoing various other scholars, the American philosopher William James marked “the recesses of feeling the darker, blinder strata of character” as the only places in the world in which “we catch real fact in the making.” Yet, instead of curiously exploring what cannot be known, we push it further away, enveloped with fear and anxiousness. The “darker strata” regularly produce angst, aversion, or awe. In this one day symposium, acclaimed scholars and artists will shed “light” on what has been relegated to the sphere of unreason: magic, the irrational, spectrality, the daemonic. Who is afraid of the irrational? What is “magic philosophy” and who needs it? How much reason is reasonable? The symposium ends with a keynote by the distinguished anthropologist Michael Taussig who will share with the audience his own private fear of the ir-rational.

  • 14.00 Welcome, Christoph Holzhey (Director ICI Berlin)
  • 14.10 "Reasonable Ghosts: The Dream of Reason and Magic Philosophy in the 1790s," Sladja Blazan (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
  • 14.50 "Non timebis a daemonio meridiano: Greek Irrational and the Construction of Modernity," Fabio Camilletti (ICI Berlin)
  • 15.30 Coffee Break
  • 16.00 Artist Presentation: "Visual Languages and Observable Planets," Jesse Bransford (New York University)
  • 16.40 "Beyond Cognition? Emily Dickinson, Poetry, and the Brain," Sabine Sielke (Universität Bonn)
  • 17.20 "Facing up to Magic: Fascination and Illusion in Bergman’s ANSIKTET (The Magician/The Face, 1958)," Brigitte Weingart (Universität Bonn)
  • 18.00 Coffee Break
  • 18.30 Keynote: "My Fear of the Rational," Michael Taussig (Columbia University)
  • 19.30 Reception