Monday, January 9, 2017

Harder boundaries appeal to sharper minds

Department of History,
Princeton University
"Alas, harder boundaries appealed to sharper minds."

     Peter Brown, "Recapturing Jerusalem at the Met," The New York review of books 63, no. 19 (December 8, 2016):  13 (10-14).  "But the problem of violence remains.  Creativity led to greater confidence in one's own views and to increased impatience with the compromises and ambiguities on which real tolerance had depended.  Alas, harder boundaries appealed to sharper minds.  We need only look at the pileup of splendid texts and maps related to Jerusalem produced in the universities, monasteries, and courts of Christian Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to realize that we are witnessing the emergence of a learned intolerance that cut deeper, in some ways, into the texture of the Middle East than did the swords of the Crusaders."  Quoting Christopher MacEvitt, The crusades and the Christian world of the East:  rough tolerance (2008):  "the first Crusaders in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem practiced a 'rough tolerance' in relation to the non-Catholic Christian populations who had survived in large numbers throughout Syria and Palestine.  Adventurers in an age of flux, the Franks took things as they came.  They did not ask too many questions about the confessional loyalties of the local Christians.  Potentially irresoluble conflicts of belief between the groups of Christians in the Holy Land were finessed through 'the dark and quiet way of rough tolerance.'  It was 'an era of unspoken compromise and unacknowledged ecumenism.'"  But "This moment passed.  By the end of the Middle Ages, even the most open-hearted Western pilgrims to Jerusalem carried with them a carapace of notions about the Middle East that already bore an uncomfortable resemblance to our own stereotypes of the region."

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