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Feeling Persecuted

Christians, Jews and Images of Violence in the Middle Ages

In Feeling Persecuted, Anthony Bale explores the medieval Christian attitude toward Jews, which included a pervasive fear of persecution and an imagined fear of violence enacted against Christians. As a result, Christians retaliated with expulsions, riots, and murders that systematically denied Jews the right to religious freedom and peace. Through close readings of a wide range of sources, Bale exposes the perceived violence enacted by the Jews and how the images of this Christian suffering and persecution were central to medieval ideas of love, community, and home. The images and texts explored by Bale expose a surprising practice of recreational persecution and show that the violence perpetrated against medieval Jews was far from simple anti-Semitism and was in fact a complex part of medieval life and culture.

Bale’s comprehensive look at medieval poetry, drama, visual culture, theology, and philosophy makes Feeling Persecuted an important read for anyone interested in the history of Christian-Jewish relations and the impact of this history on modern culture. 

254 pages | 35 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2010

History: General History

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“Anthony Bale has written another innovative and challenging book . . . Bale encourages the reader towards subtle contextualising of the use of images . . . Above all Feeling Persecuted—a beautifully produced book—reinforces the understanding, which several recent studies have manifested, of the centrality of the Jew to the devotional experiences and religious understandings of medieval Europeans. It leads the reader towards a new appreciation of late medieval religious culture.”

History Today

“[A] brilliant study of the medieval iconography of violence. . . .Bale demonstrates the intertwining of the virtuous Christian and the malevolent Jew by reading a wide variety of medieval images and texts . . . carefully constructed and interrelated readings . . . he has given other historians crucial road markers of how to think about the relationship of a minority to a hostile majority.”

Reviews in History

“Bale seeks to understand Christian attitudes towards Jews and Judaism holistically, inviting consideration of the ‘aesthetic, intellectual and devotional reasons’ for imaginary slanders. His emphasis, as might be expected, is on the ‘authorizing’ nature of perceived persecution: victimhood as a peculiarly empowering form of subjectivity. Beyond this broad point, however, the chief strengths of his book lie in its often deft analyses of an array of texts and artifacts. Bale hones in on the most characteristically tangible and piercing qualities of medieval material culture its appeals to ‘somatic engagement.’”


Winner of the Beatrice White Prize 2012

This Year's Work in English Studies

Table of Contents

1   ’He Who is in Pain is Alive’
2   The Violence of Memory: Seven Kinds of ’Jewish’ Torture
3   The Jewish Profile and the History of Ugliness
4   The Jew’s Hand and the Virgin’s Bier: Tangible Interruption
5   Visiting Calvary: Contrition, Intimacy and Virtual Persecution
6   Making Calvary
7   Cultures in Pain

Conventions and Abbreviations
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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