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Nov 16

NOV 16

6:00 PM–7:00 PM


Our Apocalypses

6:00 PM–7:00 PM    East Gallery, Maison Française, Buell Hall


Our Apocalypses

A talk by Clemence Boulouque, introduced by Christia Mercer


In her recently published book, Nos Apocalypses, a finalist for the 2022 Prix Medicis, Clémence Boulouque surveys religious responses to epidemics, from Exodus to the coronavirus, and of literary descriptions of diseases, from Boccacio and Goethe to Camus and Octavia Butler. Functioning as social criticism, scriptures and literary texts allow us to engage with questions of collective guilt, collective mourning, and divine justice (or the lack thereof), and to grapple with the societal disruptions, persecution, and discriminations that illnesses create or expose. While some of the parallels with our current times are obvious, these texts also help us to nuance responses to past epidemics and to read them anew. Nos Apocalypses is thus an invitation to understand scriptures as literature and to contemplate the uses of religious imagination in order to ponder what brings us together when disaster strikes. 

Clémence Boulouque is the Carl and Bernice Witten Associate Professor in Jewish and Israel studies at Columbia University.  She is the author of Another Modernity: Elia Benamozegh's Jewish Universalism (Stanford University Press) and co-editor of the Stanford Studies in Jewish Mysticism series. Her interests include Jewish thought and mysticism, interreligious encounters, intellectual history and networks with a focus on the modern Mediterranean and Sefardi worlds, as well as the intersection between religion and the arts, and the study of the unconscious. Prior to embarking on an academic career, Clémence Boulouque worked as a novelist and literary and movie critic in Paris.  

This talk is made possible by support from the Knapp Family Foundation.  It is co-sponsored by the Columbia Maison Française, Department of Religion, Institute for Jewish and Israel Studies, the Institute for Culture, Religion and Public Life, and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.

Our Apocalypses