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234 × 156 mm
256 pages
39 illustrations
27 Aug 2010

Feeling Persecuted Christians, Jews and Images of Violence in the Middle Ages Anthony Bale

The medieval Christian attitude towards Jews included a pervasive fear of violence enacted against Christians. Many Christians believed that Jews committed crimes against Christian children, Christ’s body and the Eucharist, leading them to conclude that Jews were out to destroy their religion and way of life. They retaliated with expulsions, riots and murders that systematically denied Jews the right to religious freedom and peace.

Feeling Persecuted exposes the violence enacted by the Jews in the imaginations of Christians and how the images of this Christian suffering and persecution were central to medieval ideas of love, community and home. Images and texts from the period reveal a surprising practice of recreational persecution of Jews and show that the violence perpetrated against medieval Jews was far from simple anti-Semitism; it was in fact a complex part of medieval life and culture.

This comprehensive look at medieval poetry, drama, visual culture, theology and philosophy makes Feeling Persecuted an important read for anyone interested in the history of Christian-Jewish relations and the impact of this history on modern culture.

‘Anthony Bale has written another innovative and challenging book . . . Bale encourages the reader towards subtle contextualising of the use of images . . . Above all Feeling Persecuted – a beautifully produced book – reinforces the understanding, which several recent studies have manifested, of the centrality of the Jew to the devotional experiences and religious understandings of medieval Europeans. It leads the reader towards a new appreciation of late medieval religious culture.’ – History Today

‘This book contains examples from a wonderful array of poems, lullabies, plays, miniatures, ivories, tiles and frescoes . . . This is a fine book that combines important insights into medieval Christian religious culture with a subtle understanding of Christian-Jewish relations.’ – Speculum

‘a fascinating exploration of the affective function of narratives of Jewish violence in medieval Christian culture. Bale argues persuasively that, rather than serving the ends of mimetic realism, such texts operated as stimuli to empathy and compunction.’ – The Year’s Work in English Studies

‘[a] brilliant study of the medieval iconography of violence . . . Bale demonstrates the intertwining of the virtuous Christian and the malevolent Jew by reading a wide variety of medieval images and texts . . . carefully constructed and interrelated readings . . . he has given other historians crucial road markers of how to think about the relationship of a minority to a hostile majority.’ – Reviews in History

‘Bale seeks to understand Christian attitudes towards Jews and Judaism holistically, inviting consideration of the “aesthetic, intellectual and devotional reasons” for imaginary slanders. His emphasis, as might be expected, is on the “authorizing” nature of perceived persecution: victimhood as a peculiarly empowering form of subjectivity. Beyond this broad point, however, the chief strengths of his book lie in its often deft analyses of an array of texts and artefacts. Bale hones in on the most characteristically tangible and piercing qualities of medieval material culture – its appeals to “somatic engagement.”’ – Marginalia

‘This book provides a useful angle from which to read – and teach – literary and other artifacts of the often tense co-existence of Christians and Jews throughout the Middle Ages. Bale does an excellent job of illuminating a lost aesthetic of persecution that valorized “edifying fear.”’ – Comitatus

‘This sage book about medieval Christianity not only explores the value of pain and persecution for spirituality and subjectivity but demonstrates how religions and cultures construct and deposit their own virtual realities of experience and memory.’ – Anthropology Review Database

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Anthony Bale is Reader in Medieval Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, and the author of The Jew in the Medieval Book: English Antisemitisms, 1350-1500 (2006).