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Vision and visuality in late antique Rabbinic cultureRachel Neis
There has been a relatively recent rehabilitation of the visual in the study of Jewish culture, mostly in terms of the study of images and attitudes towards them. This thesis extends the recognition of the importance of visuality in Jewish studies by treating vision itself as a phenomenon in need of historical study. Specifically this study describes and analyzes "Rabbinic visuality." It demonstrates the ways in which the Rabbis of late antiquity expended exegetical, legal and narrative energy in an effort to construct vision, to regulate vision, and indeed to "Rabbinize' vision itself. Through close study of specific themes, textual traditions and comparative material, it is shown that the Rabbinic regime of the visual manifested itself in several realms (ritual, fantasies about the destroyed Temple, making the past visible, categorizing humans and mapping the landscape), and was configured differently across space and in time from third-century Palestine, to fifth-century Palestine and sixth-century Persia. Rabbinic visuality is variously shown to be distinctive from, appropriative of and indebted to late antique, Greco-Roman, Christian, Persian and other contemporaneous visualities. Vision, literally and as employed literarily, functioned as a site of differentiation and commonality, polemic and rhetoric, between different groups, religions, ethnicities and genders. The thesis shows that the Rabbis, like their fellow Near Easterners, were very much engaged in visual cultural practices and that they invented their own objects and formats of visual piety, theology and culture. The Rabbis saw in ways that were specific to, and constitutive of, their identity, while at the same time sharing a language and landscape of visuality with their fellow late antique neighbors.
Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Antique; Culture; Rabbinic; Vision; Visuality; Religious history; Ancient civilizations; Judaic studies; 0579:Ancient civilizations; 0751:Judaic studies; 0320:Religious history
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