Epigonism and the Dynamic of Jewish Culture.
6th EAJS Summer Colloquium, Yarnton Manor, 5th to 8th July 2004
In the lovely setting of Yarnton Manor, the EAJS once again hosted last year’s Summer Colloquium, entitled “Epigonism and the dynamic of Jewish culture”. The venue was instigated by Shlomo Berger and Irene Zwiep, both working in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies of the Universiteit van Amsterdam. The colloquium’s section on Maimonides and Maimonideanism was under the direction of Steven Harvey of Bar-Ilan University.
The colloquium intended to discuss the role of epigones as ‘carriers of culture’ (rather than as second-rate artists, as common usage has it), and of ‘epigonism’ as a dynamic force in the development and dissemination of cultural codes. By introducing Epigonism as a dynamic force rather than dismissing it as an inevitable, secondary stage in cultural development, the organizers hope the study of the ‘the epigonic’ will finally rid itself of its apologetic tendencies. Scholars no longer face the need to rehabilitate ‘their’ epigone author, or to reassess and redefine the existing canon in which that author is supposed (not) to have operated. Exploring the consequences of this new concept may help us realize that culture is not shaped by great minds alone, and thus eventually result in a more appropriate model for writing Jewish intellectual history.
Twenty participants from Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, the US, Canada and Israel explored the topic in relation to the history of philosophy and science (from Maimonides, via Nissim of Marseilles, to Albert Einstein), literature (from Ibn Zabara to Perl), history, music, and the arts (from urban paradigms in rabbinic literature to contemporary painting). The outcome was a critical, highly interdisciplinary debate on the definition of (Jewish) epigonism and its constituents, and on the boundaries and possibilities of paradigms in Jewish intellectual history in the broadest sense. Themes that came up in the course of the discussion included: epigonism versus schools of thought; epigones versus great contemporaries; choice and determinism in epigonism; the creativity of epigonism; epigonism and innovation; epigonic genres; Jewish epigonism in universal debates, and the ‘Jewish genius’. The colloquium opened with a lecture-cum-recital by Zechariah Plavin (Jerusalem Academy of Music) on the theme of Jewish originality (and non-originality) in concert art music.
As the first step towards further co-operation and implementation of the new paradigm, the results of the conference will be published as the Studia Rosenthaliana Yearbook 2006 (Leuven: Peeters). The volume will include revised versions of most of the papers presented at the colloquium, plus invited contributions which will explore the relevance of the paradigm for European intellectual history in general. [Note: Now published as Studia Rosenthaliana Volume 40, 2007. Contents and abstracts available online here: http://poj.peeters-leuven.be/content.php?url=issue&journal_code=SR&issue=0&vol=40]
Shlomo Berger and Irene Zwiep, Universiteit van Amsterdam.