Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Midrash and Postmodernity: Art After the Holocaust

If you want to know what I've been working on, check out my essay in Tikkun. It's my dissertation in just a few pages . . .

7 comments:

Casey said...

Awesome, Monica... Next time you see me, tell me more about the Messianic Gap.

nedric said...

I found midrash intellectually attractive upon my first exposure to it, and your presentation both confirms as well as demonstrates its contemporary relevance and viability for dealing with our current ambivalence. I particularly appreciate your point about how midrash is a resource by which we can transcend the "tension between aesthetics and the ethical that renders representational modes inadequate." And I agree that what matters is not so much what we discover "out there" in the space of doubt but what we discover about ourselves.

I've got two questions, if that is okay. So Doctorow, Kieslowski and Bak each embody or perform a form of midrash as artists, and then you yourself are as well as critic, right? (maybe that's not such a good question... is that right, though?)

This one's a bit tangential:
Although I realize it's within the context of the study of the City of God and so this may not even get off the ground, I was wondering if you believe that doubt is all we can depend on?

Anyway, fascinating project, and thanks for sharing it.

nedric said...

oops...

...you yourself are embodying or performing midrash as well in the mode as a critic...

Monica said...

Casey,

Yeah, the Messianic Gap is a really cool idea. I'd be happy to share . . .


Nedric,

Glad you also appreciate the intellectual appeal of midrash and midrashic thinking. Regarding your first question, yes, indeed, as a critic I am performing midrash -- or, to be more appropriate, and less offensive I suppose, it might be best to say that I am thinking midrashically, extending an already existing body of work. Midrash is multi-layered . . . it's the same idea as the notion that "Torah" is not just the Hebrew Bible, but all of the classical Midrash and Talmudic discussions that surround (extend) it. It's what keeps Torah from becoming a cultural artifact -- the potential to grow and expand infinitely.

And, no, I don't think doubt is the only thing we can depend on, though it often feels that way -- perhaps this is where philosophy/theology have failed??

nedric said...

I came across an interesting, though critical, take on the supplements to the Hebrew Bible. The way it was presented was that each in their own way - whether it be the Neviim and Ketuvim, or the Oral Tradition, or even the New Testament - seem to cover up and bury the text. It seems that there must be something powerfully dangerous about the Hebrew Bible itself that we need to add to it, to create some gaps between us and it.

Whether or not that is the case, it is a fascinating take nonetheless. It seems to support your suggestion that "thinking midrashically" is as much about creating gaps as it is about filling them.

Monica said...

Hmmm . . . that's a really interesting thought, Nedric. But if the Hebrew Bible is dangerous, I would argue that responding to its gaps (and revealing what is, really, ALREADY contained in it) is what makes it less so. I don't actually think we want to create gaps between us and it . . . the point of midrash (or midrashic thinking) is to close those gaps as much as possible -- never really filling them, but only responding to them.

nedric said...

That helps. "Responding" rather than "filling" underscores how the process or practice of midrashic thinking has more to do with the way we live out our lives than some sort of epistemological coherence and consistency with regard to narratives (fictional or otherwise)... Now I'm not sure if that's it anymore...