Judaism and Enlightenment by Adam Sutcliffe (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
This study investigates the philosophical and political significance of Judaism in the intellectual life of seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe. Adam Sutcliffe shows how the widespread and enthusiastic fascination with Judaism prevalent around 1650 was largely eclipsed a century later by attitudes of dismissal and disdain. He argues that Judaism was uniquely difficult for Enlightenment thinkers to account for, and that their intense responses, both negative and positive, to Jewish topics are central to an understanding of the underlying ambiguities of the Enlightenment itself. Judaism and the Jews were a limit case, a destabilising challenge, and a constant test for Enlightenment rationalism. Erudite and highly broad-ranging in its sources, and yet extremely accessible in its argument, Judaism and Enlightenment is a major contribution to the history of European ideas, of interest to scholars of Jewish history and to those working on the Enlightenment, toleration and the emergence of modernity itself.