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Marked Off in the Eyes of the Public: Anti-Jewish Imagery and the Politics of Prejudice

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Prof Sara Lipton

Art can be a powerful force in shaping the way we see and think about the world: pictures craft our ideas of beauty and ugliness, good and bad, power and weakness. This lecture traces how medieval Christian images of Jews, originally designed to aid religious devotions, made Christians look at Jews with new curiosity and interest, and drew their attention to previously unnoticed aspects of Jewish life and looks. As images of Jews evolved from benign but outdated Hebrews to caricatured usurers and demonic sorcerers, Christian society developed new – and increasingly hostile – ideas about and policies toward Jews, whose effects have endured to this day.

Sara Lipton is Professor of History at the State University of New York, Stony Brook and a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America the Royal Historical Society (UK). She is currently a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. Her most recent book is Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography (2014).

This season’s lecture series seeks to explore the connection of visual narratives in the context of beauty, ugliness and morality with representations of Jews and Jewishness in the Western world from the Middle Ages to the present day. We aim to examine the subject from different historical, social and artistic perspectives ranging from medieval mythology to Orientalism, Zionism, Feminism or modern aesthetics, and through the lens of a selection of diverse media including painting, photography and comics.

The remaining lectures this season will be held at Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU, and will also be available on Zoom.

Admission is free. Lectures will begin promptly at 6.30pm. Latecomers may not be admitted.

Overview of the 2023 Lecture Series

2023 Lecture Series Flyer (PDF)