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Theology and Aesthetics of Prophetic Dreams in Medieval Jewish Exegesis and Philosophy

Subproject by Hanna Zoe Trauer

The project investigates conceptions of imaginative knowledge in medieval Jewish writings by examining the exegetical and philosophical treatment of biblically attested revelatory dreams.

Proceeding from the various Jewish exegetical traditions – ranging from rabbinical interpretations (in the Midrash and Talmud) via their entanglements with Hellenistic theories (e.g. Philo of Alexandria) to medieval Hebrew exegesis (e.g. Abraham Ibn Ezra) – the manifold rewritings, reinterpretations and complex reciprocal dynamics involved in the context of medieval debates on prophetic dreams are analysed.

In particular, the project seeks to elucidate how contemporary philosophical and psychological approaches become embedded in the exegetical interpretation of biblical dreams, how knowledge is transferred within this specific context, and how it undergoes modification in the process.

The project’s main focus is placed on the way in which the various texts negotiate the status of mental images and the possibility of a visionary experience of the transcendental in revelatory dreams, along with the various claims of validity that are involved: How do medieval exegetes deal with the problem that events that ultimately transcend the very boundaries of conceptualisation and representation can only be discussed and substantiated via descriptions and depictions?

In this context, the project examines, among other things, the relationship of seeing and hearing, the role of the senses and the imagination, as well as the conceptions of time and space that underlie the various commentaries. How these descriptive models influenced Christian and Islamic notions while themselves being subject to modification is discussed in cooperation with the other subprojects focussing on the Christian and Islamic tradition.