February 24, 2004 Eric Jacobson To Discuss His Book on the Political Theology of Walter Benjamin And Gershom Scholem at Library of Congress on March 18

Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692
Contact: Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ADA@loc.gov

Author Eric Jacobson will discuss his book, “Metaphysics of the Profane: the Political Theology of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem” (Columbia University Press, 2003), at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 18, at the Library of Congress in LJ-119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The presentation, sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center and the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, in cooperation with the Goethe- Institut, Washington, and the Leo Baeck Institute, New York, is free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are needed. A book signing will follow the program.

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) and Gershom Scholem (1897-1982), both German-born, were two of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 20th century. Benjamin is considered one of the most important German literary critics, and Scholem inaugurated a new era in the study of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. Together they produced a dynamic body of ideas that has had a lasting impact on the study of religion, philosophy and literary criticism.

In “Metaphysics of the Profane,” Jacobson reconstructs the early work and intellectual partnership between Benjamin and Scholem while seeking to emphasize the mutual effect that each had on the other’s view of politics and theology. Many new materials are presented here for the first time in English, including parts of Scholem’s journals and letters, unpublished material from the Scholem Archive in Jerusalem, as well as untranslated early texts by Benjamin.

Jacobson, who teaches modern Jewish thought and convenes the graduate program in critical religious studies at the University of Sussex, England, has published extensively on philosophy and Jewish studies. He is currently a fellow at the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, where his research topic is “the Holocaust, Zionism and Jewish history in the correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Gershom Sholem, 1941-1963.”

A generous endowment from John W. Kluge in 2000 enabled the Library of Congress to establish the John W. Kluge Center to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate, energize and distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. The center houses the Library’s eight senior chairs, distinguished visiting scholars and approximately 25 postdoctoral fellows. It also sponsors a number of programs that highlight research in the humanities and culture.

For more information about any of the fellowships, grants or programs sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595, e-mail at scholarly@loc.gov. Or visit the Kluge Center Web site at www.loc.gov/kluge/. Learn more about the Library’s Hebraic collections by visiting the Web at www.loc.gov/rr/amed/.

The Web sites for the Goethe-Institut and the Leo Baeck Institute are www.goethe.de/uk/was/enindex.htm and www.lbi.org/.


PR 04-030
ISSN 0731-3527