The Menahem Stern Jerusalem Lectures

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The Menahem Stern Jerusalem Lectures

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Empires in Collision in Late Antiquity

G. W. Bowersock

Political and military developments in the Arabian Peninsula on the eve of Islam In this book, based on lectures delivered at the Historical Society of Israel, the famed historian G. W. Bowersock presents a searching examination of political developments in the Arabian Peninsula on the eve of the rise of Islam. Recounting the growth of Christian Ethiopia and the conflict with Jewish Arabia, he describes the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of a late resurgent Sassanian (Persian) Empire. He concludes by underscoring the importance of the Byzantine Empire’s defeat of the Sassanian forces, which destabilized the region and thus provided the opportunity for the rise and military success of Islam in the seventh century. Using close readings of surviving texts, Bowersock sheds new light on the complex causal relationships among the Byzantine, Ethiopian, Persian, and emerging Islamic forces.

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Exiles and Expatriates in the History of Knowledge, 1500–2000

Peter Burke

In this wide-ranging consideration of intellectual diasporas, historian Peter Burke questions what distinctive contribution to knowledge exiles and expatriates have made. The answer may be summed up in one word: deprovincialization. Historically, the encounter between scholars from different cultures was an education for both parties, exposing them to research opportunities and alternative ways of thinking. Deprovincialization was in part the result of mediation, as many émigrés informed people in their “hostland” about the culture of the native land, and vice versa. The detachment of the exiles, who sometimes viewed both homeland and hostland through foreign eyes, allowed them to notice what scholars in both countries had missed. Yet at the same time, the engagement between two styles of thought, one associated with the exiles and the other with their hosts, sometimes resulted in creative hybridization, for example, between German theory and Anglo-American empiricism. This timely appraisal is brimming with anecdotes and fascinating findings about the intellectual assets that exiles and immigrants bring to their new country, even in the shadow of personal loss.

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Language and Power in the Early Middle Ages

Patrick J. Geary

The eminent historian Patrick J. Geary has written a provocative book, based on lectures delivered at the Historical Society of Israel about the role of language and ideology in the study and history of the early Middle Ages. He includes a fascinating discussion of the rush by nationalist philologists to rediscover the medieval roots of their respective vernaculars, the rivalry between vernacular languages and Latin to act as transmitters of Christian sacred texts and administrative documents, and the rather sloppy and ad hoc emergence in different places of the vernacular as the local administrative idiom. This is a fascinating look at the weakness of language as a force for unity: ideology, church authority, and emerging secular power always trumped language.

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Religion in China and Its Modern Fate

Paul R. Katz

Paul R. Katz has composed a fascinating account of the fate of Chinese religions during the modern era by assessing mutations of communal religious life, innovative forms of religious publishing, and the religious practices of modern Chinese elites traditionally considered models of secular modernity. The author offers a rare look at the monumental changes that have affected modern Chinese religions, from the first all-out assault on them during the 1898 reforms to the eve of the Communist takeover of the mainland. Tracing the ways in which the vast religious resources (texts, expertise, symbolic capital, material wealth, etc.) that circulated throughout Chinese society during the late imperial period were reconfigured during this later era, Katz sheds new light on modern Chinese religious life and the understudied nexus between religion and modern political culture.

Religion in China and Its Modern Fate will appeal to a broad audience of religionists and historians of modern China.

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