About the project

Since its inception in 2017, the “Jewish Moralistic Writings of the Early Modern Period” Emmy Noether project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) has successfully established new ways of researching Jewish literature dealing with moral instruction (musar). For the sixth and final year of the project, the Emmy Noether group has created Mus|ar|t, an interdisciplinary program of artistic residencies that are intended to facilitate the transfer of knowledge through contemporary arts. Between October 2022 and March 2023, five artists-in-residence, hosted at the Center for Art and Urbanistics (ZK/U) in Berlin, and one writer-in-residence based at the Institute for Jewish Philosophy and Religion at the University of Hamburg, will collaborate to this experimental effort. During their residencies, they will develop individual research-based projects addressing relevant themes for the understanding of musar, including the translation of traditional texts into non-written media such as soundscapes and graphic journaling, the uncovering of female perspectives in moral codification, or the inception of intercultural dialogue via interactive performance. By initiating a collaboration at the interface of art and science, we want to explore the question of how the content of emotionally charged literature can be conveyed through non-textual forms of representation and, conversely, how research in the humanities can benefit and learn from these forms of expression.

What is musar?

There is no clear and simple answer to the question of what is meant by the Hebrew term musar. This is not only due to the fact that the linguistic use of the term looks back to a long history — from the Bible to the present — and has thus been used with many different connotations and in different contexts. It is also mainly because there is no consensus on what is understood as morally correct and what is understood as morally reprehensible.
Musar manifests itself in multiple genres, in multiple stylistic garbs, and in multiple languages. It can offer general principles for spiritual improvement or clear instructions for everyday conduct; it can provide strategies for change by deliberately triggering feelings of anxiety, and it can serve, in the biblical sense of the word, the function of an admonisher.
The aim of “Jewish Moralistic Writings of the Early Modern Period” Emmy Noether project is to explore musar first and foremost as a mode of thinking, and “books of musar” very much like their verbal counterpart (“words of musar”) as literary expressions of what a particular author recommends as morally appropriate or inappropriate in a certain setting and for a certain target group.
This research in Jewish esoteric early modern texts has prompted a program of artistic residencies as an experiment in interdisciplinarity. The artists participating to the Mus|Ar|t Program have elaborated contemporary interpretations of musar, incorporating texts and book objects from Jewish tradition into research-based transmedia projects, including visual art, video- and audio-installations, comic journaling, and poetry.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search