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Dreaming of Michelangelo
Jewish Variations on a Modern Theme

Asher D. Biemann


200 pp.
3 illustrations.
ISBN: 9780804768818
Cloth $50.00
ISBN: 9780804784368
E-book $50.00

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"Dreaming of Michelangelo is a masterpiece of original scholarship . . . Enhanced with extensive notes and a comprehensive index, Dreaming of Michelangelo is a very highly recommended addition to academic library Judaic Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists."—James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review

"Dreaming of Michelangelo obliges the reader to rethink the important questions of the relationship between Deutschtum and Judentum, Judaism and Hellenism, Jewish criticism of idolatry, Jewith ethics, and religion."—Irene Kajon, University of Rome

"Biemann takes the reader into the vibrant intellectual worlds of the generations of Jews in the German-speaking orbit for whom the encounter with Michelangelo, with Italy, and with classical art proved constitutive of their experience of modernity and sometimes Jewishness as well."—Jonathan Hess, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Asher Biemann presents a very creative and productive lens for re-examining the entry into modernity by Western European Jews."—Richard Block, University of Washington

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.

Asher D. Biemann is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. Stanford has also published his Inventing New Beginnings (2009).

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