The Third Pillar

The Third Pillar

Essays in Judaic Studies

Jewish Culture and Contexts

by Geoffrey Hartman

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.

248 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm, 5 illus.

  • ISBN: 9780812243161
  • Published: May 2011



Why should we be excluded from the history and literature of Judaism because the world of our fathers and mothers became a secularized one, Geoffrey Hartman asks, or because religious literacy, whatever our faith or community affiliation, has gone into relative decline? And why, he asks, do those who have no trouble finding pleasure and intellectual profit in the Greek and Roman classics or in the literary and artistic productions of two millennia of Western Christianity not easily find equal resonance and reward in the major texts in the Jewish tradition? For if Christianity and the classical inheritance stand as two pillars of Western civilization, surely the third pillar is the Jewish tradition.

In The Third Pillar Hartman, one of the most influential scholars and teachers of English and comparative literature of recent decades, has brought together some of the most important and eloquent essays he has written since the 1980s on the major texts of the Jewish tradition. In three groupings, on Bible, Midrash, and education, Hartman clarifies the relevance of contemporary literary criticism to canonical texts in the tradition, while demonstrating what has been—and what still remains to be—learned from the Midrash to enrich the interpretation of commentary and art, sacred or secular. "The map of the discipline [of Jewish studies] is still being drawn," Hartman writes. "Barely known areas tempt the explorer, and major reinterpretations remain possible. This third pillar of our civilization . . . is only now being fully excavated: we have discovered something but not everything about its structure and upholding function."