My work on Jewish philosophy of art has finally shifted from a “project” (which is to say, a series of short papers and book chapters and napkin jottings and proposals for various things all loosely grouped around a central theme) towards a “book”–between Friday and today I have written about 1200 words that are utterly impossible to use anywhere but the introduction of what I hope a publisher will take as Religion, Art and Nationalism: 1750 to the present; the week after next I have a retreat booked at a barn in the Welsh borders, by the end of which that introduction should have grown roughly 3800 more words and be, more or less, done; there are two more chapters that will need to emerge from the aether, and then two that exist in bits and pieces from the “project” stage but still need pulling together, shaping, and polishing.
I already have plans for the book that should follow this one, and every call for papers or invitation to collaborate that has crossed my desk in the past three months has seemed to invite a response that will feed into that one, which is both heartening (I have things to say that someone might want to hear!) and frustrating (…but I have to finish saying all these other things right now…) I’d started viewing this book like the meat I have to finish before I can have any pudding; I’m pleased to report that I’m liking it much better now that I’m actually writing than I was when I was putting off work on it!
But what drove me to the blog was the fact that I spent a good portion of the past 48 hours reading up on Carl Schmitt, a thoroughly disreputable Weimar-era political philosopher, whose work has been mostly ignored in the English speaking world. I know him first from a excerpt published in de Vries’s Political Theology reader, and more recently from the work of Jayne Svenungsson, who co-edited Jewish Thought, Utopia and Revolution with me, as well as the lengthy treatment he receives in the introduction to Judaism, Liberalism and Political Theology. Which is to say: as far as I am aware, the most sustained engagement with Schmitt’s thought at the moment is happening in Jewish philosophy of religion. Other current trends in Jewish philosophy of religion (and my own current research is not really an exception) are a renewed engagement with Heidegger and with Hegel. Ma zeh?
Part of it is, of course, historical: you can’t read 20th century Jewish philosophy, in its almost overwhelming German-ness, without also needing to read the people that the people you started out reading were reading and responding to. Part of it is, no doubt, a desire to read Jewishness back into the dominant Western philosophical tradition (I’ve previously noted how deeply weird this desire can become in Arendt’s work). But I’d also like to think that we’re getting to a point where we’re distant enough from the catastrophe to be able to untangle the not-necessarily-totally-horrible ideas from the wrong, petty, and corrupt people who had them.
Edited to note that AUFS is talking about a similar theme here.