Dean of the Division of Social Sciences; Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought, Department of History; Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
David Nirenberg’s work has focused on the ways in which Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures constitute themselves by inter-relating with or thinking about each other. His first book, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, studied social interaction between the three groups within the context of Spain and France, in order to understand the role of violence in shaping the possibilities for coexistence. In more recent projects, like Wie jüdisch war das Spanien des Mittelalters? Die Perspektive der Literatur and "Figures of Thought and Figures of Flesh: 'Jews' and 'Judaism' in Late Medieval Spanish Poetry and Politics," he has taken a less anthropological and more hermeneutical approach, exploring the work that "Judaism," "Christianity," and "Islam" do as figures in each other's thought about the nature of language and the world.
Although often focused on these three specific religious traditions, at its most general his interest is in the history of how the possibilities and limits of community and communication have been imagined. In order to explore these more general questions He is also engaged in two long term thematic projects: the first a history of love's central place in a number of ancient, medieval, and modern idealizations of communication and exchange; and the second a parallel study of poison as a representation of communication's dangers.