Eating the Text, Defiling the Hands

Edith Wyschogrod

in Crossover Queries

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226061
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235148 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Eating the Text, Defiling the               Hands

Show Summary Details


This chapter looks at Arnold Schoenberg's opera Moses and Aron, a masterpiece that, moving between music and text, purports to explore the relation of the Absolute as idea to the image that is alleged to manifest it. The complex tensions between idea and image are brought forward through an innovative combination of speech, vocal, and instrumental music known as Schoenberg's “theosonics”. The complex of questions posed and suspended by the Mosaic traditions of phenomenality and ideality, as manifested in the calf and the tablets, returns in Schoenberg's work as spectral re-enactments of older Jewish and Christian traditions exemplified in the comments on Moses in Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed and in the brief remarks on Moses in Augustine's Confessions. The chapter then considers a rabbinic tradition that contends that sacred food must be segregated from sacred text and that each confers sacred defilement, a “defiling of the hands”.

Keywords: Arnold Schoenberg; opera; Moses and Aron; theosonics; music; sacred text; defilement; idea; image

Chapter.  6553 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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