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Symposium: “Jews and Melancholia”

March 30, 2017 @ 9:00 am - March 31, 2017 @ 2:00 pm

The connection between Jews and melancholia is a long-standing one in Western thought and culture, and is grounded in religious, medical, astrological, artistic, literary, and philosophical traditions that extend all the way to antiquity. The association begins in late Roman antiquity, when the Jewish Sabbath was identified with the worship of Saturn, the planet of melancholics; it continues throughout the Middle Ages and early modern times, when melancholia was linked in the Christian imagination with the Jewish cannibalistic lust for Christian blood; and culminates in such twentieth century Jewish figures as Walter Benjamin and S. Y. Agnon, who identified their Judaism, or certain forms of modern Jewish mentality, with a melancholic disposition.

What is at stake, then, in the notion of melancholia, and why is it frequently associated with Jews and Jewish identity? The symposium will present an opportunity to think about these questions and discuss them in an interdisciplinary academic forum. The purpose of the symposium is to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue on melancholia—while drawing on classical, medieval, and modern notions—not only by charting the specific relation of such notions to Jews, but also by identifying how they came to influence certain artistic, theological, and literary practices.


March 30, 708 Clemens Hall

9:00 am – 9:30 am

Session I
9:30 am – 10:50
Irven Resnick (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)
The Melancholy Jew: Humoral Theory in Medieval Jewish and Christian Polemics

11:00 am – 12:20 p
Sergey Dolgopolski (University at Buffalo)
Are “Jews” Melancholic? Acedia in Rabbinic (In)action

12:30 – 2 pm Lunch break

Session II
2 pm – 3:20 pm
Vivian Liska (University of Antwerp)
Demonic Melancholy. Reading Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin Today

3:30 pm – 4:50 pm
Noam Pines (University at Buffalo)
Portrait of The Jew as a Saturnian Cannibal

March 31, 708 Clemens Hall

Session III
9:00-10:20 am
Anne Golomb Hoffman (Fordham University)
Freud and Agnon: Melancholy Objects, Language, Identifications

10:30 am-11:50 am
Nitzan Lebovic (Lehigh University)
Left-Wing Melancholy in Early Hebrew Literature

12:00 pm – 1 pm
Conclusion and Roundtable Discussion

1 pm. — Lunch


Sergey Dolgopolski (Jewish Thought, University at Buffalo)
Anne Golomb Hoffman (English, Fordham University)
Nitzan Lebovic (History, Lehigh University)
Vivian Liska (German Literature, University of Antwerp)
Noam Pines (Jewish Thought, University at Buffalo)
Irven Resnick (Philosophy and Religion, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)


The event is sponsored by the Department of Jewish Thought, the Department of Comparative Literature, The Humanities Institute, The Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture, and by Ewa Ziarek, Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature.


March 30, 2017 @ 9:00 am
March 31, 2017 @ 2:00 pm


Dept of Jewish Thought
Dept. of Comparative Literature


708 Clemens Hall