The Music Libel Against the Jews Ruth HaCohen

Publication date:
17 Jan 2012
Yale University Press
532 pages: 235 x 156 x 35mm
80 b/w + 9 color illus.

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This deeply imaginative and wide-ranging book shows how, since the first centuries of the Christian era, gentiles have associated Jews with noise. Ruth HaCohen focuses her study on a 'musical libel' - a variation on the Passion story that recurs in various forms and cultures in which an innocent Christian boy is killed by a Jew in order to silence his 'harmonious musicality'.

In paying close attention to how and where this libel surfaces, HaCohen covers a wide swathe of western cultural history, showing how entrenched aesthetic-theological assumptions have persistently defined European culture and its internal moral and political orientations. Ruth HaCohen combines in her comprehensive analysis the perspectives of musicology, literary criticism, philosophy, psychology, and anthropology, tracing the tensions between Jewish 'noise' and idealized Christian 'harmony' and their artistic manifestations from the high Middle Ages through Nazi Germany and beyond. She concludes her book with a passionate and moving argument for humanizing contemporary soundspaces.

More about this title

Winner of the 2012 Polonsky Prize in the research category for creativity and originality in the humanistic disciplines.

Ruth HaCohen is Arthur Rubinstein Professor of Musicology at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Winner of the Otto Kinkeldey Award for the most distinguished book in musicology published in 2012 given by the American Musicological Society.

Ruth HaCohen's Music Libel Against the Jews is the winner of the 2012 Polonsky First Prize in the research category for creativity and originality in the humanistic disciplines. The Polonsky Prizes are given to faculty at The Hebrew University.

Shortlisted for the 2012 Academy of Religion Book Awards in the Historical Study of Religion category.

 “[A] Remarkable book…Ruth HaCohen’s words teach us a great deal.”—David Nirenberg, The New Republic

“Groundbreaking.”—James Loeffler, The New Republic