Romance Languages and Literatures

David Nirenberg

Executive Vice Provost and the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought


Committee on Social Thought, 1130 E. 59th Street, Box 35

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Program(s): Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies

Much of my work has focused on the ways in which Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures constitute themselves by inter-relating with or thinking about each other. My first book, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, studied social interaction between the three groups within the context of Spain and France, in order to understand the role of violence in shaping the possibilities for coexistence. In more recent projects, like Wie jüdisch war das Spanien des Mittelalters? Die Perspektive der Literatur and "Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh: 'Jews' and 'Judaism' in Late Medieval Spanish Poetry and Politics," I have taken a less anthropological and more hermeneutical approach, exploring the work that "Judaism," "Christianity," and "Islam" do as figures in each other's thought about the nature of language and the world.I have been pursuing this approach in two book projects, one focused on the transformation of religious identities in Spain between the mass conversions of 1391 and the establishment of the Inquisition, the other on the functions of Jews and Judaism as figures of thought, from ancient Egypt to the present.

Although often focused on these three specific religious traditions, at its most general my interest seems to be in the history of how the possibilities and limits of community and communication have been imagined. In order to explore these more general questions I am also engaged in two long term thematic projects: the first a history of love's central place in a number of ancient, medieval, and modern idealizations of communication and exchange; and the second a parallel study of poison as a representation of communication's dangers.

Work in Progress:

  1. A study of the collapse of religious pluralism and the emergence of genealogical models of religious identity in Iberia, 1300-1500.
  2. A cultural and intellectual history of poison from the Ancient World to the Renaissance.
  3. A one-volume history of the Middle Ages, for Bedford/St. Martins.



Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages. Princeton University Press (1996). Paperback edition, February, 1998.  Spanish translation: Comunidades de Violencia: Persecución de minorías en la edad media, Peninsula Editorial (2001); French translation: Violence et minorités au Moyen Age, Presses Universitaires de France (2001).
Received John Nicholas Brown Prize, Medieval Academy of America, 2000; Herbert Baxter Adams Prize, American Historical Association, 1999; First Book Prize, the Society for Spanish and Portuguese Studies, 1998; Premio del Rey Prize, American Historical Association, 1997.

Wie jüdisch war das Spanien des Mittelalters? Die Perspektive der Literatur, Kleine Schriften des Arye Maimon-Instituts, vol. 7 (Trier, 2005).

The Figure of the Jew: from Ancient Egypt to the Present [provisional title].  Forthcoming, W.W. Norton.


"Christendom and Islam: 1000-1500," in press, Cambridge History of Christianity.

"Christian Sovereignty and Jewish Flesh," in press, in The Medieval Senses, ed. S. Nichols, J. Küpper, et al.

"Was there Race before Modernity?  The Example of 'Jewish' Blood in Late Medieval Spain," in The Origins of Racism in the West, ed. Ben Isaac, Yossi Ziegler, and Miriam Eliav-Feldon, in press, Cambridge University Press.

"'Race' and 'Racism' in Late Medieval Spain," in Rereading the Black Legend: The Discourses of Racial Difference in the Renaissance Empires, ed. W. Mignolo, M. Quilligan, and M. Greer, in press, University of Chicago Press.

 "A Brief history of Jewish Enmity," in press, in The Passion Story: From Visual Representation to Social Drama, ed. M. Kupfer (Penn State University Press).

"Rethinking Spanish 'Judaism' and 'Christianity' in age of Mass Conversion," in press, in Rethinking European Jewish History, ed. J. Cohen and M.J. Rosman (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization).

"Une société face à l'altérité. Juifs et Chrétiens dans la péninsule Ibérique 1391-1449," Annales: HSS, July-August 2007.

"Vom Verschwinden des Judentums: das christliche Spanien im Zeitalter der Massenkonversionen," Wertekonflikte-Deutungskonflikte: Symbolische Kommunikation und gesellschaftliche Wertesysteme, ed. G. Althoff and B. Stollberg-Rilinger (2007).

"The Politics of Love and its Enemies," Critical Inquiry 33.3 (Spring 2007), pp. 573-605 [reprinted in Religion: Beyond the Concept, ed. Hent de Vries (Fordham University Press, 2007)].

"Truth and Consequences."  The New Republic, Dec 11, 2006.

"Deviant politics and Jewish Love: Alfonso VIII and the Jewess of Toledo," Jewish History 21 (2007), pp. 15-41.

"What Benedict Really Said.  Paleologus and Us." The New Republic, Oct 10, 2006.

"Poetics and Politics in an Age of Mass Conversion," in Cultures of Conversion, ed. Jan N. Bremmer, Wout J. van Bekkum and Arie L. Molendijk (Peters: Leuven, 2006), pp. 31-51.

"Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh: 'Jews' and 'Judaism' in Late Medieval Spanish Poetry and Politics," Speculum 81 (2006), pp. 398-426.

"Engaging 'Order and Exclusion': Reflections on a recent book by Dominique Iogna-Prat," in press, Early Medieval Europe 13 (2005), pp. 389-96.

"Warum der König die Juden beschützen musste, und warum er sie verfolgen musste," in Die Macht des Königs: Herrschaft in Europa vom Frühmittelalter bis in die Neuzeit, ed. B. Jussen (Munich, 2005), pp. 226-241.

"Alfonso VIII and the Jewess of Toledo: A Political Affair," in Essays in Honour of Denah Lida, ed. M. Berg and L.A. Gyurko (Boston, 2005): pp. 27-43.

"Love Between Muslim and Jew in Medieval Spain: A Triangular Affair," in Jews, Muslims, and Christians in and around the Crown of Aragon : essays in honour of Professor Elena Lourie, ed. Harvey J. Hames (Leiden, 2004).

[with Richard Kagan] "Foreword," A Man of Three Worlds: Samuel Pallache, a Moroccan Jew in Catholic and Protestant Europe, by M. Gracía-Arenal and G. Wiegers (Baltimore, 2003), pp. vii-xi.

"The Birth of the Pariah: Jews, Christian Dualism, and Social Science," Social Research 70.1 (Spring, 2003), 201-236.

"Enmity and Assimilation: Jews, Christians, and Converts in Medieval Spain," Common Knowledge 9 (2003), 137-155.

"Rasse als Begriff bei der Untersuchung spätmittelalterlicher Judenfeindschaft auf der spanischen Halbinsel," in Jüdische Gemeinden und ihr christlicher Kontext, ed. Christoph Cluse, Alfred Haverkamp, and Israel Yuval (Hannover, 2003), pp. 49-72.

"La generación del '91: conversión masiva y crisis de identidad," in Furor et rabies: Violencia, conflicto y marginación en la Edad Moderna, ed.José I. Fortea, Juan E.Gelabert, and Tomás A. Mantecón, Universidad de Cantabria (Santander, 2002), pp. 313-338.

"Conversion, Sex, and Segregation: Jews and Christians in Medieval Spain," American Historical Review 107 (Oct. 2002), pp. 1065-1093.

"Plus juif que les juifs: le roi," L'Histoire, no. 269 (Oct. 2002), pp. 42-43.

"Mass Conversion and Genealogical Mentalities: Jews and Christians in Fifteenth-Century Spain," Past and Present 174 (Feb. 2002), pp. 3-41.

"What can Medieval Spain teach us about Muslim-Jewish Relations?" CCAR Journal (Summer, 2002), pp. 17-36.

"The Rhineland Massacres of Jews in the First Crusade: Memories Medieval and Modern," in Imagination, Ritual, Memory, Historiography: Concepts of the Past, ed. G. Althoff, J. Fried, P. Geary, Cambridge University Press (2001), pp. 279-310.

"Varieties of Mudejar Experience: Muslims in Christian Iberia, 1000-1526" in The Medieval World, ed. P. Linehan and J. Nelson, Routledge (2001), pp. 60-76.

"El concepto de la raza en la España medieval," Edad Media. Revista de Historia 3 (Spring 2000) 39-60.

"Religious and Sexual Boundaries in the Medieval Crown of Aragon," in Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Medieval and Early Modern Spain, ed. M. Meyerson and E. English, University of Notre Dame Press (1999), pp. 141-60.

"From Nabuchadnezzar to Negroponte: Three Millennia of Millennialism," Offcourse: a Literary Journal 5 (Fall 1999) []

"Violencia, memoria y convivencia: los judíos en la Iberia Medieval," Memoria y Civilización 2 (1999), pp. 31-53.

"'La matança dels jueus': violència i convivència a l'epoca medieval de la Corona d'Aragó," L'Avenç 231 (Dec. 1998), pp. 14-18.

"The State of Mudejar Studies," Journal of Medieval History 24 (1998), pp. 381-89.

"The Historical Body of Christ," in The Body of Christ in the Art of Europe and New Spain,1150-1800, Prestel Verlag, Munich (1997), pp. 16-25.

"The Visigothic Conversion to Catholicism: Third Council of Toledo," in Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources, ed. O.R. Constable, University of Pennsylvania Press (1997), pp. 12-20.

"Les juifs, la violence, et le sacré," Annales: HSS 50 (1995), pp. 109-131.

"Muslim-Jewish Relations in the Fourteenth-Century Crown of Aragon," Viator 24 (1993), pp. 249-268.

"A Female Rabbi in Fourteenth Century Zaragoza?,"  Sefarad 51 (1991), pp. 179-182.

"Maria's Conversion to Judaism," A Jewish Journal at Yale 2 (1984), pp. 38-44.