Dreaming of Michelangelo: Jewish Variations on a Modern Theme

Dreaming of Michelangelo: Jewish Variations on a Modern Theme

Language: English

Pages: 200

ISBN: 0804768811

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Dreaming of Michelangelo is the first book-length study to explore the intellectual and cultural affinities between modern Judaism and the life and work of Michelangelo Buonarroti. It argues that Jewish intellectuals found themselves in the image of Michelangelo as an "unrequited lover" whose work expressed loneliness and a longing for humanity's response. The modern Jewish imagination thus became consciously idolatrous. Writers brought to life—literally—Michelangelo's sculptures, seeing in them their own worldly and emotional struggles. The Moses statue in particular became an archetype of Jewish liberation politics as well as a central focus of Jewish aesthetics. And such affinities extended beyond sculpture: Jewish visitors to the Sistine Chapel reinterpreted the ceiling as a manifesto of prophetic socialism, devoid of its Christian elements. According to Biemann, the phenomenon of Jewish self-recognition in Michelangelo's work offered an alternative to the failed promises of the German enlightenment. Through this unexpected discovery, he rethinks German Jewish history and its connections to Italy, the Mediterranean, and the art of the Renaissance.

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Liebe) was the origin of Michelangelo’s raw genius, of his “childlike naiveté,” which kept him both a lover into his old age and a follower of the unenlightened, yet powerful Catholic myth;101 but it was the origin also of his suffering and solitude, and of his deeply human feeling. “Humanity did not accept him . . . , he felt excluded from the table of this world,” writes Alfred Döblin, who rediscovered his own Judaism as National Socialism was on the rise, in a powerful chapter of his Hamlet, a

the artwork, therefore, is an “event” (Ereignis): “It is complete in itself to the extent that it carries in itself perfection [Vollendung] because of its flight towards perfection.”131 Terribilità disturbs the perfect to reveal its task. Revelation Michelangelo, to Franz Rosenzweig, abandoned the harmonies of perfected form, of beauty altogether, for beauty in art is but an “island, an isolated specter . . . , an idol.”132 In Michelangelo, Rosenzweig writes, the “true,” the “good,” and the

also beyond this terror—into the future of “hope.” That art must not be eudaemonistic but “terrible,” that it must be filled with the “iconoclast’s rage,” like Savonarola, that it must make the fragment part of its own image, determined by “concrete utopia” and fearless of the tragic, remained an aesthetic trope also for Bloch. “All art is tragic in its content,” wrote Franz Rosenzweig in his Star of Redemption, “it depicts suffering.”176 But as it depicts, it also becomes comic in form,

History and German Jews: Junctions, Boundaries, and Interdependencies,” in In Times Of Crisis: Essays on European Culture, Germans, and Jews (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001), 86–92. 7. Martin Jay, Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993), 2. 8. Ibid., 3. 9. Cf. Dominick LaCapra, History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004), 17–20. 10. Ibid., 5. 11. Cf. Dominick LaCapra,

Micheal (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1977), 211. 53. Max Liebermann to Franz Servaes, February 12, 1900, in Liebermann, Siebzig Briefe, ed. Franz Landsberger (Berlin: Schocken, 1937), 27. On the modernist hope of universalism see Ezra Mendelsohn, “Jewish Universalism: Some Visual Texts and Subtexts,” in Key Texts in American Jewish Culture, ed. Jack Kugelmass (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003), esp. 181. 54. Cf. George L. Mosse, “Jewish Emancipation: Between Bildung und

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