Religion

Review: Smith, Reading Leo Strauss

May 18, 2006
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Review: Smith, Reading Leo Strauss

In his New York Sun review of Steven B. Smith’s Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism, Adam Kirsch argues that the demonization of Strauss by the media, academics, politicians, and other critics is "redolent of the propganda of the 1930s, Auden’s ‘low, dishonest decade.’" That is why Kirsch goes on to praise Smith’s new book, which takes a different approach to Strauss: "The demonization of Leo Strauss, in short, is one of the most dismal signs of the times.… That is why Reading Leo Strauss, a sober new study by Yale professor Steven Smith, feels so heartening. By returning to the source and examining what Strauss actually wrote, Mr. Smith lets the breeze of reason into the feverish sickroom of ideology. He portrays a Strauss who cherished democracy as the best bulwark against tyranny, and who valued intellectual honesty above all. By the time Mr. Smith is done, nothing is left of the Strauss caricature except the ignorance and malice that fathered it." Interest in Leo Strauss is greater now than at any time since his death, mostly because of the purported link between his thought and the political movement known as neoconservatism. Steven B. Smith, though, surprisingly depicts Strauss . . .

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Jaroslav Pelikan, 1923-2006

May 15, 2006
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Jaroslav Pelikan, 1923-2006

Jaroslav Pelikan, a leading scholar in the history of Christianity, died on Saturday, May 13, at the age of 82. He was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University, having served on the Yale faculty from 1962 to 1996. We were fortunate to publish Pelikan’s extraordinary five-volume work The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, a religious and intellectual history of Christian doctrine from the first century to the twentieth. Martin Marty said of the work that it is “a series for which they must have coined words like ‘magisterial’.” . . .

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Zizek lecture at the University of Chicago

April 19, 2006
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Zizek lecture at the University of Chicago

On April 19 at 4:00 p.m., Slavoj Zizek, documentary film star, Critical Inquiry visiting professor, and co-author of The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology, will present another lecture at the University of Chicago. This week’s lecture, "The Uses and Misuses of Violence," will take place at the Max Palevsky Cinema (1212 E. 59th Street). The event is free and open to the public. In The Neighbor, three of the most significant intellectuals working in psychoanalysis and critical theory collaborate to show how the problem of neighbor-love opens questions that are fundamental to ethical inquiry and that suggest a new theological configuration of political theory. Their three extended essays explore today’s central historical problem: the persistence of the theological in the political. In "Towards a Political Theology of the Neighbor," Kenneth Reinhard supplements Carl Schmitt’s political theology of the enemy and friend with a political theology of the neighbor based in psychoanalysis. In "Miracles Happen," Eric L. Santner extends the book’s exploration of neighbor-love through a bracing reassessment of Benjamin and Rosenzweig. And in an impassioned plea for ethical violence, Slavoj Zizek’s "Neighbors and Other Monsters" reconsiders the idea of excess to rehabilitate a positive sense of the inhuman and . . .

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Press release: Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom

March 30, 2006
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Press release: Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom

Examining Genesis in a philosophical light, Kass presents it not as a story of what happened long ago, but as the enduring story of humanity itself. He asserts that the first half of Genesis contains insights about human nature that "rival anything produced by the great philosophers." Kass here reads these first stories—from Adam and Eve to the tower of Babel—as a mirror for self-discovery that reveals truths about human reason, speech, freedom, sexual desire, pride, shame, anger, and death. Taking a step further in the second half of his book, Kass explores the struggles in Genesis to launch a new way of life that addresses mankind’s morally ambiguous nature by promoting righteousness and holiness.… Read the press release. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Now it’s hamantashen time

March 14, 2006
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Now it’s hamantashen time

The Latke-Hamantash Debate was born at the University of Chicago some sixty years. In Chicago the debate is traditionally held on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On other campuses—Cornell University, for example—the debate takes place around the celebration of Purim. Purim, Hanukkah, or, heck, the Fourth of July, any time is an appropriate time for the intellectual and gastronomic delights of The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate, a collection of the best of nearly sixty years of brilliant University of Chicago oratory deployed on behalf of latkes and hamantashen. In the Jerusalem Report Matt Nesvisky writes, “Editor Cernea, herself an anthropologist and a former Hillel official, has done a creditable job of combing through the organization’s archives to come up with essays that are never quite hilarious but are usually at least moderately amusing. I for one confess to a fondness for Ralph Marcus’s charming couplet: ‘Though David admired Bathsheba’s torso/ He liked her hamantashen more so.’ A close second is when Lawrence Sherman has Mercutio remarking ‘Women who are cold, cold latkes/ Cannot warm a young man’s gatkes.’” Our online feature for the book includes the text and audio of Ted Cohen’s “Consolations of the Latke” as well as recipes . . .

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Foucault and the Iranian Revolution

February 1, 2006
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Foucault and the Iranian Revolution

On February 1, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after fifteen years of exile. The Shah had fled Iran about two weeks earlier and Khomeini was acclaimed the leader of the Iranian Revolution. Later that year revolutionary students would storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take the staff hostage, to profound consequence. One observer of the Iranian Revolution was Michel Foucault, who was a special correspondent for Corriere della Sera and le Nouvel Observateur, for whom he wrote a series of articles. In Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson illuminate Foucault’s support of the Islamist movement. and show how Foucault’s experiences in Iran contributed to a turning point in his thought. Read one of Foucault’s essays, “What Are the Iranians Dreaming About?” . . .

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