Memorialisation and Jewish Theology in the 20th and 21st centuries: monument, narrative, liturgy

Vincent, Alana M. (2010) Memorialisation and Jewish Theology in the 20th and 21st centuries: monument, narrative, liturgy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is an exploration of the relationship between the understanding of the past and the practice of theology. It is built around three major case studies: the history of interpretation of the commandment to blot out the memory of Amalek (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), the commemoration of the First World War in Canada, and the development of post-Holocaust theology. Linking these cases are issues of theological response to (or justification for) violence, and tensions between individual and collective identity.
Part I focuses on Deuteronomy 25:17-19, and the internal contradiction between the commandments to remember and blot out the memory of Amalek. The passage is analysed both in terms of language and reception history, with special attention paid to Rabbinic interpretations from the 19th and 20th centuries (sermons and commentaries generated during or immediately after the German Reform movement, the American Civil War, and the Nazi occupation of Poland). This reading prompts two further strands of analysis, which are pursued separately: the distinction between the remembering commanded in the passage and concepts of memory active in the Western philosophical tradition prior to the 20th century, and the place this passage has in a larger tradition of religious and secular discourse on acceptable justifications for violence, again in both Jewish and more broadly Western thought.
Part II takes up these themes, beginning with an historically contextualised reading of two versions of Antigone—one written by Sophocles in the early days of the Athenian Empire, and the other by Jean Anouilh during the Second World War. Both of these focus on a dead body as the site of ideological contestation between divergent identity narratives—a conflict that is also apparent in negotiations over the memorialisation of the First World War, which is the main focus of this part. A close reading of novels from L. M. Montgomery‘s Anne of Green Gables series, published before, during, and just after the war reveals that the First World War partly destabilised the individual-focused structures of memorialisation that were in place prior to its beginning, in favour of structures which enforced the collective identity of the soldiers who died in the war; while much of this instability could be (and was) addressed in existing theological language, the war nevertheless left a mark on Canadian society and religious practice. This part concludes with an examination of the Canadian National Monument at Vimy, conducted via archival documentation of the monument‘s design and construction and then through a reading of The Stone Carvers, a recent novel which re-imagines the circumstances documented in the archives through the eyes of one war veteran and his family. This dual reading also demonstrates the instability of memorials, the tendency of their meaning to shift over time.
Part III commences with a discussion of the shift in memorial forms precipitated by the Holocaust. I contend that the tendency to memorialise the Holocaust with complex museum narratives betrays an anxiety about the intended audience of these memorials, which points in turn to the degree to which the Holocaust upset previous cultural and religious worldviews. This section focuses on theological and literary attempts to record and respond to the ruptures caused by the Holocaust, with specific reference to two recent novels by Jewish Candian women which, taken together, provide a constructive interruption to overly tidy narratives of national and religious identity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: memory, liturgy, monument, canada, vimy, first world war, holocaust, protest theodicy, memorial, vimy, anne of green gables
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1001 Canada (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BM Judaism
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Professor David
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Dr. A. M. Vincent
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2006
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2010
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2013 07:51

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