Thanks to Alan Meese and Nate Oman for hosting me last week at a symposium on Nate’s important new book, “The Dignity of Commerce.” (That’s me, above, interacting with the author). I learned a great deal. Nate has been a guest blogger here at the Law and Religion Forum, and it was good to catch up with him and with Alan, and to make some new friends. The symposium will appear later this year.
In June, Cornell University Press will release Defiant Priests: Domestic Unions, Violence, and Clerical Masculinity in Fourteenth-Century Catalonia by Michelle Armstrong-Partida (University of Texas at El Paso). The publisher’s description follows:
Two hundred years after canon law prohibited clerical marriage, parish priests in the late medieval period continued to form unions with women that were marriage all but in name. In Defiant Priests, Michelle Armstrong-Partida uses evidence from extraordinary archives in four Catalan dioceses to show that maintaining a family with a domestic partner was not only a custom entrenched in Catalan clerical culture but also an essential component of priestly masculine identity, one that extended to the carrying of weapons and use of violence to resolve disputes and seek revenge, to intimidate other men, and to maintain their status and authority in the community.
From unpublished episcopal visitation records and internal diocesan documents (including notarial registers, bishops’ letters, dispensations for illegitimate birth, and episcopal court records), Armstrong-Partida reconstructs the personal lives and careers of Catalan parish priests to better understand the professional identity and masculinity of churchmen who made up the proletariat of the largest institution across Europe. These untapped sources reveal the extent to which parish clergy were embedded in their communities, particularly their kinship ties to villagers and their often contentious interactions with male parishioners and clerical colleagues. Defiant Priests highlights a clerical culture that embraced violence and illuminates how the parish church could become a battleground in which rivalries among clerics took place and young clerics learned from senior clergymen to meld the lay masculine ideals that were a part of their everyday culture with the privilege and authority of their profession.
In June, the University of Chicago Press will release Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought by Chad Alan Goldberg (University of Wisconsin-Madison). The publisher’s description follows:
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prominent social thinkers in France, Germany, and the United States sought to understand the modern world taking shape around them. Although they worked in different national traditions and emphasized different features of modern society, they repeatedly invoked Jews as a touchstone for defining modernity and national identity in a context of rapid social change.
In Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought, Chad Alan Goldberg brings us a major new study of Western social thought through the lens of Jews and Judaism. In France, where antisemites decried the French Revolution as the “Jewish Revolution,” Émile Durkheim challenged depictions of Jews as agents of revolutionary subversion or counterrevolutionary reaction. When German thinkers such as Karl Marx, Georg Simmel, Werner Sombart, and Max Weber debated the relationship of the Jews to modern industrial capitalism, they reproduced, in secularized form, cultural assumptions derived from Christian theology. In the United States, William Thomas, Robert Park, and their students conceived the modern city and its new modes of social organization in part by reference to the Jewish immigrants concentrating there. In all three countries, social thinkers invoked real or purported differences between Jews and gentiles to elucidate key dualisms of modern social thought. The Jews thus became an intermediary through which social thinkers discerned in a roundabout fashion the nature, problems, and trajectory of their own wider societies. Goldberg rounds out his fascinating study by proposing a novel explanation for why Jews were such an important cultural reference point. He suggests a rethinking of previous scholarship on Orientalism, Occidentalism, and European perceptions of America, arguing that history extends into the present, with the Jews—and now the Jewish state—continuing to serve as an intermediary for self-reflection in the twenty-first century.