October 21, 2004
Vol. 24 No. 3

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    Conference honoring Kraemer to focus on medieval thinkers

    By Jennifer Carnig
    News Office

    It seems only fitting that a man called a “master scholar” by his colleagues would be best celebrated by two days of scholarship in his name. So that is how Joel Kraemer, the John Henry Barrows Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies in the Divinity School, will be honored—with a conference Wednesday, Oct. 27, and Thursday, Oct. 28, dedicated to him and his work.

    The conference, titled “The Two Gentlemen of Cordova,” will include a series of lectures that reflect Kraemer’s scholarship. Specifically, it will focus on the medieval enlightenment thinkers Averroes and Maimonides.

    Averroes, considered by many to be the greatest of the medieval Muslim thinkers, was a contemporary of Maimonides, considered to be the greatest of the medieval Jewish thinkers.

    Kraemer, who is widely regarded to be one of the premier scholars of Islamic and Jewish philosophy, retired from the University faculty in June after 10 years of service. His work is heralded for its contribution to the understanding of how the heritage of classical antiquity—Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus—was assimilated into medieval Islamic civilization by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. This effort is exemplified in Kraemer’s books, Philosophy in the Renaissance of Islam, Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam, and the forthcoming More Precious Than Rubies: Women’s Letters from the Cairo Geniza, and A Life of Maimonides.

    The latter is “going to be the biography of Maimonides,” said Paul Mendes-Flohr, Professor of Modern Jewish Thought in the Divinity School. “It promises to be a truly monumental work.”

    Mendes-Flohr said Kraemer represents “the type of scholar who is increasingly receding from the academic world someone with a firm knowledge and grounding in languages, philology and a very studious attention to detail and nuance of expression.

    “On a more personal note,” Mendes-Flohr continued, “he has an infectious love of his material. He can recite by heart Arabic poetry and Hebrew poetry from the Middle Ages. He’s just amazing.”

    Mendes-Flohr is one of six scholars presenting at the conference, along with Alfred Ivry of New York University; Barry Kogan of Hebrew Union College; Tzvi Langermann of Bar Ilan University; Ralph Lerner, the Benjamin Franklin Professor in the College; and Bernard McGinn, the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology in the Divinity School.

    A complete schedule is available at http://divinity.uchicago.edu/whatsnew/autumn_2004/kraemer2.html, and more information can be obtained by calling (773) 702-8230 or by visiting Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St, where all of the conference events will take place.